Mr Toppit, Charles Elton, Other Press, 2010, 388 pp
While Mr Toppit turned out to be a pretty good read, the novel suffers from an identity crisis, as do its various characters. Charles Eton has combined fantasy, coming-of-age, the publishing business, celebrity, and dysfunctional family in an uneasy stew that occasionally induces queasiness in the reader.
His main theme is the psychic damage caused to a child who was used as a main character in his father's series of fantasy books. Collateral damage is inflicted on the boy's sister, who was NOT in the books. The result is that Luke spends his life hiding from relationships and trying to avoid the limelight, while his sister Rachel spends her life trying to be noticed.
After the death of the father, through a series of random events, fame and fortune come to this unfortunate family. The fallout is at once hilarious and tragic. A whole collection of quirky characters, both real and imagined, representing the elements of our celebrity culture, keep the story moving.
There are flashes of all the elements of good fiction--plot, character, social commentary, angst, etc. It just does not mesh until the last twenty pages or so. By the end I felt fairly satisfied but also relieved that it was over.
(Mr Toppit is available in paperback at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)