Review: King of Hope by Kim Conklin

king of hope
Kim Conklin
Palimpsest Press, October 2022, 289 pages, Paperback, US$17.95/CAD$18.95.

Kim Conklin king of hope A dark and heavy first novel about a town plagued by nuclear waste. The town is a fictional version of Port He Hope, Ontario, a community that served as a center for radium and uranium processing for decades starting in the 1930s. During these decades, radioactive material spread throughout the town through leaks, dumping, and the practice of using the waste as construction fill. Corruption eventually became an element of Gothic horror. A ubiquitous, invisible threat capable of inflicting unspeakable harm.

that’s right, king of hope is a work of Gothic fiction. Southern Ontario Gothic to be exact. Stories in this subgenre frequently involve settings in desolate small towns haunted by grotesque horrors, overshadowed by a buried past. They are also often characterized by a sense of secrecy and a sense of physical, social, or psychological displacement. It is suitable.

The settings and characters are detailed. Conklin’s fictional Port Hope is called Port Desperre and, like its real-life counterpart, is a quaint lakeside town known for its Victorian homes, natural beauty and wildlife. The story has an interesting ensemble of characters, but only focuses on his four of them. Our main protagonist, Hart Addison, is the mayor of Port Despere and the publisher and editor-in-chief of the local newspaper. He is also the owner of a ramshackle motel that has never been opened and a house that leaks rainwater like a sieve. He’s so committed to his thesis and his work as mayor that he’s willing to let go of details like a leak-proof roof and time with his wife.

The crumbling structure is a metaphor for the character’s inner state. Hart’s wife, Ronnie, was transplanted to Port Her Despere, but she reached a breaking point after years of being neglected by Hart and being banished from the local community for her big city ideas. is approaching Ronnie and Hart’s niece Lenny is also in danger. Like many children in town, she is battling a serious illness. The hardest thing for her is being a 14-year-old girl with no hair. One of her few pleasures is spending her mornings with Ronnie. Ronnie makes herself feel good with her morning makeup and photo shoot before her school. Lenny is an aficionado of old classic movies, Ronnie is a professional photographer, and every morning Ronnie helps Lenny slip into the look and persona of another actress in his favorite movie.

The fourth main character is another newspaper reporter named Roger Guthrie. He does puff pieces to pay his bills, but he hates doing them secretly and is always on the lookout for big stories like building his career and blowing the lid off Port Desperre’s nuclear cover-up. .

In one fateful October, the conspiracy unfolds over several days. The moon is waxing towards the full moon on Halloween. The sky and foliage are washes of autumn orange, red, gold and brown. While each of the main characters is on a personal journey, the entire town is faced with the crucial decision of whether or not to allow his third nuclear power plant to be built within its boundaries. This new plant will recycle the hot metal waste produced by her two other plants. However, a company spokesperson acknowledged that there will inevitably be a radioactive release. The townspeople are divided on whether the new jobs are worth the increased radiation risk.

A major subplot involves Hart’s attempt to convince a large television network to cover the results of medical research commissioned by the residents of Port Desperre. Frustrated by the Canadian government’s refusal to conduct its own comprehensive study, a local citizen group collected urine samples from 12 of her people in Port des Perres and paid for them to be analyzed in a specialized laboratory. I paid. Radiation levels in study participants were found to be several times higher than in controls. The group submitted these findings to the government and was dismissed again. Hart hopes the pressure of the international spotlight will change things.

Among other things, king of hope It’s a short window into the life of a small independent newspaper. heart paper, Guardian, he’s so small that he seems to be wearing just about any hat. This paper is a passion project, one with little money and few readers. Few people in Port Despere seem to want the impartial and balanced journalism he provides. They simply want existing beliefs to be confirmed. This is a poignant commentary on the state of today’s echo chamber media environment.

one way king of hope Gothic in particular denounces scientific rationality, as Gothic fiction is mystical, supernatural, and tends to emphasize the failure of scientific methods of cognition. The novel challenges today’s conventional wisdom that progress is inevitable, that technology is worthless, and that science has the power to curb creations that happen to run amok. It also laments the widespread disregard of the modern world for what science cannot test. Just because scientists haven’t cataloged, quantified, and reduced all the forces in the universe, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. ”

Radioactivity is a quintessential Gothic threat in its own right. To the inhabitants of preatomic civilizations, it would have seemed like a malevolent supernatural force. Its health effects often do not appear for decades, and may not appear at all. The abstraction and capriciousness of the radioactive menace give it an almost Lovecraftian incomprehensibility.

My quarrel with this book has to do with style.Conklin uses several different writing styles that don’t mix well. She mostly uses simple language to convey a sense of solemnity, befitting such a grim narrative. Consider the following excerpt: “He was just running around tongue-tied, not caring about generating enough mental energy to register for a brain scan…” I just came along…”? At some point, the novel also has a little more explanation than the story needs.

Still, these flaws, though distracting, weren’t enough to break my immersion in an otherwise engaging read. .

Teaser photo credit: Ganaraska River in Port Hope. Me, Hermann Ruyken, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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