Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Review: Star Island by Carl Hiaasen

Title: Star Island
Author:Carl Hiaasen
Publication Year:2010

In every Carl Hiaasen novel, you need:

- a heroine. She is wise, resilient and world-weary, given to making wry (funny) statements about life and it's contents. In the beginning of the story, the heroine is always wronged in some way. But she's a got a plan to right this wrong. She is matched by

-a hero, who's in love with her, or will be before the story ends. His desire is to protect the heroine and help her on her quest. Why does this strong resilient woman need help and protection? because lurking elswhere in the story is

-a turd. A bobbing, bubbling loaf of excrescence with no soul and no apologies for lacking one. This is your villain and he is one of Hiaasen's specialties. He's always the type of person who doesn't frighten you, unless he gets power-- and he's always after power. Sometimes there's more than one turd in the story, which sweetens the deal.

-secondary characters. Like Charles Dickens, Carl Hiaasen populates his novels with people you would swear you know except that their features are so extreme. They are caricatures more than characters but they are funny as hell.

- Florida. Hiaasen sets all of his novels in his home state of Florida, where (if his depiction is accurate) the natural beauty is great, the politicians are crookedly slick and the people are interesting.

If you liked all of these features in Hiaasen's other novels, you will love his most recent novel, Star Island. The story revolves around a disaster diva named Cherry Pye, an amalgam of all the pop star train wrecks you've seen in the news recently. Whenever Pye is too stoned to make a good public appearance, her scheming stage mother and twin publicists bring in an actress named Ann DeLucia to 'play' her at parties and red-carpet events. The trick is to keep the world--and Cherry Pye herself from finding out.

The turd in this story is a papparazzo named Bang Abbott, a hygienically challenged photographer who decides to make it his life's work to get a picture of Cherry Pye on her deathbed--or close to it. He becomes obsessed with the wayward lip-syncher and tries to kidnap her. Like everyone else, he's fooled and kidnaps Ann instead.

The hero--and this, to me, is the best part- is one of Hiaasen's best characters from a previous novel called Sick Puppy: Clinton Tyree, AKA 'Skink', the former governor of Florida. (I love Skink!)

Among the secondary characters is Cherry Pye's bodyguard, who has a weed whacker for an arm and is almost as funny as Skink (but nobody's funnier than Skink. Seriously).

Again, like all of his novels, this one is also satirical. This time, instead of crooked politicians or litterbugs, Hiaasen takes on our celebrity obsessed culture. His criticism is sharp and part of what makes you laugh is recognizing what he's talking about.

The sad part is, since it's loaded with celebrity references (some of which I, being less than pop culture savvy, didn't recognize) it's going to seem really dated in just a few years.