Timothy Taylor, Blue Light Project

Conspiracies, media corruption, violence, and art: Timothy Taylor's impressively convoluted The Blue Light Project is a mature novel, and that's both a very good thing and a step up from his already celebrated previous work.

The thing is, as much as I enjoyed Taylor's Stanley Park, with its smart Vancouver-focused parody of locavore foodies and corporate restauranteurs and coffee culture, eventually I got to feeling it was a little under-polished. Great setup, great concept, but the satire started to feel too much like failed realism, and my enjoyment started to feel like homerism for a novel giving its readers an immersive experience of my home province.

That's not at all the case with Taylor's more recent novel. Although it takes around a hundred pages before enough of the pieces are in play for you to know where the novel will likely end up, The Blue Light Project is a cracker of a story. (Not that everybody liked it, mind you. And heck, some of the negative reviewers even preferred Stanley Park: madness, that.)
Whom do [people] trust? You can bet the list is short and there's not a powerful person on it. Our cattle are cloned. Our seeds are terminators. Our pipelines are full of blood. (p272)

It's giving nothing away to say that Taylor situates this novel at the intersection between competing visions of street art: graffiti, tagging, commercialism, nostalgic politics, and so on. As a result, we're meant to be ruminating upon the authenticity of the different ways in which we represent ourselves and others, and the different ways of seeing that we use habitually (and that others use when they look at us, surveillance-style and otherwise).

One of the main characters, Rabbit, is working independently and in complete secrecy on a technological street art installation that he thinks of as "the blue light project," and the date of its completion happens to coincide with a media-perfect hostage-taking. Basically, a man with a bomb -- possibly assisted by some men with guns -- take control of a TV studio containing the audience and the child competitors of the show KiddieFame (kind of like American Idol, but with voting by the studio audience, and a fascinating twist called a "Kill" that I refuse to explain). The man demands to speak with former star journalist Thom Pegg, now disgraced after a plagiarism scandal but working at a very successful celebrity magazine. Linking these two figures -- Pegg and Rabbit -- is Olympic biathlon gold medallist Eve Latour.

Everyone's searching for something; everyone's surrounded by a surfeit of meaning that they can't grasp; everywhere in this novel we get to participate in different overlapping communities. Admittedly, some of the characters were plot drivers rather than complex characters, and the narrative can be a little schematic, but there's so much to think about here, and a lot to enjoy.

And Taylor even lets me indulge my ongoing useless pondering about book trailers: win or fail?


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