Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
This jolly little caper was recommended to me based on my favorable review of “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. While I did enjoy that lovely book very much, this selection resembles it only in the premise of an impromptu journey by a geriatric gentleman. This story could be the result of Carl Hiaasen blending Harold Fry with Forrest Gump and adding his own patented lunacy to the mix. There are two storylines at work: the current day journey of Allan Karlssen and the entourage he accumulates while trying to evade a biker gang and the police, and the historical journey of his very eventful Gump-like life that collides with every major global event from 1920 to the fall of the Soviet Union.
I found the current day story line the more entertaining of the two. Readers of Hiaasen’s books will enjoy the very dry, dark humor and root for the inevitable come-uppance dealt by karma as our merry band of fugitives dodge every peril, encouraged by Allan’s optimistic belief that “it is what it is, and what will be will be.” The historical sections were very Gumpish (as noted by many other reviewers), but better because through Allan’s stubbornly apolitical viewpoint, no country or political party escapes a dark satirical skewering. My only complaint was how revisiting history slowed down the more entertaining escape story. Still, it is only a small complaint, because there comes a scene near the end when all those previous historical encounters are bundled together to great hilarity at one person’s expense.
For those who enjoyed Harold Fry for the sweet, gentle tone and ultimately life redeeming message, you may not respond well to the darkness in this story if you are hoping for a repeat. Hiaasen’s fans will have to adjust to a very British reader and a more dry delivery than that author employs. But if those adjustments can be made, if you can just hop on board and take the journey with Allan, then you may be very pleased with “what it is, and what will be.”
The back end of a hurricane is called the dirty side of the storm, often bringing some of the worst weather and tornados. In Carl Hiaason's Florida, the dirty side of the storm is filled with crooked opportunists looking to make a killing, do a killing, or just cynically take videos of personal misery to show to the folks back home. Fortunately this crazy landscape has some good guys too - although they may not be easy to recognize at first, disguised as they are by their quirkey lives.
This is not a story for everyone. The humor is startling, even raunchy - if you get it, you'll find yourself letting out sudden bursts of laughter at absurd moments, thinking one second later OMG that's not funny - and yet it is. Hiaason finds some of the most outrageous ways for the bad guys to get their come-uppance. Karma really is a b**ch.
This doesn't sparkle quite as brightly as Skinny Dip, largely because there were too many characters to keep track of (and to be disposed of), so its pace was a bit slower. The main story threads are terrific and very Hiaason. If he had left out at least a couple of the lesser threads it would have been better. Fairly small complaint. I still enjoyed my journey through this crazy storm-ruined Wonderland. Just what I was looking for as a light guilty pleasure.
Lately, without purposely trying to, I have been finding some wonderfully memorable curmudgeons. Here is one of the more outrageous of the breed - Skink. I ran into Skink first in Hiassen's Skinny Dip which was delightful. Double Whammy turns out to be Skink's debut, and happily, he takes center stage, revealing his full back story as well as allowing him to wreak havoc on the bad guys as no one else could. I have to thank the Daily Deal for motivating me to download this book, because in spite of my fondness for Hiassen, a story about bass fishing just didn't get me excited. I didn't know what fun I was missing, The supporting cast is fun, the mystery not terribly mysterious, but you know that justice will prevail, though with somewhat less dark humor than is found in some of Hiassen's other outings. Still, it was a fun romp if you are looking for something light and diverting.