Saturday, July 07, 2007

Books Wormed: "Sick Puppy" by Carl Hiaasen

The death of the comic novel in America ought to be grieved to a greater degree than it currently is. Thanks to Carl Hiaasen, though, the comic novel as once churned out by Tom Robbins, Philip Roth, or Kurt Vonnegut is merely on life support. If anyone can breathe life back into its moribund canon it's him.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketNormally I'm not fond of genre fiction, regardless of type. Even the most skilled purveyors of it seem to run out of ideas after the first couple, and all of a sudden the excitement you get from picking up a new title by an author you thought you liked is ruined by the discovery, a couple of chapters in, that it's the same as the last one.

Hiaasen pretty neatly sidesteps that trap, even though his subject matter varies little from book to book: they all take place in Florida, they all feature pretty skeezy good guys and monstrous villains. They are also damn funny, or at least the ones I've read, which by now is more than half. Maybe it's his wicked wit or because I agree with his politics, where Hiaasen is concerned, I almost wouldn't mind reading the same book over and over again.

Not that I ever have to.

In "Sick Puppy" specifically his targets are lobbyists and the shady dealings for which they are responsible. As with all of his tales of greed and corruption, Hiaasen offers no concrete plan for cleaning up the cesspool which is politics.

Then again, that's hardly his job. As a journalist AND as a novelist, Hiaasen's tactics seem to favour the shedding of light onto the situations that need light shone on them, namely the loathing that politicians, real estate developers, and their ilk seem to have for Nature.

To write a comedy crime thriller with an ecological bent cannot be an easy task, and yet Carl Hiaasen has written nearly a dozen of them now. Whether his efforts will ever do more than amuse his devoted readers remains to be seen.

Either way, they're the best chance Florida has at surviving the condo block and mini-mall juggernaut currently destroying the once-pristine beauty of the Sunshine State.
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