No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, October 09, 2017

2017/84: Chomp -- Carl Hiaasen

Although the bat that had chomped him wasn’t carrying rabies, the germs from its saliva were toxic enough to blur his pampered sense of reality. In his fevered mind, the Night Wing vampire movies now loomed as true-to-life as a National Geographic nature documentary. [p. 190]

Mickey Cray runs an animal sanctuary / zoo in Florida, making a living by hiring out the animals for film and TV work. His son Wahoo is worried about Mickey, who hasn't worked for a while after being knocked out by a frozen iguana. Money's tight, and Wahoo's mother is away in China (she teaches Mandarin), when Mickey is approached by Derek Badger, a reality TV star whose show, Expedition Survival!, features Derek being dumped somewhere wild and having to make his way back to civilisation, living off the land and generally being tough.

(Derek, it must be said, may remind you of someone else, with his craving for money and fame, and his 'shiny chin, big oval mouth and vivid, orange-tinted hair.' I am sure any resemblance to a major public figure is purely coincidental.)

Derek and his team would like to employ Mickey and Wahoo -- accompanied by Wahoo's new friend Tuna, a girl from his class at school who's escaping a tricky home situation -- to accompany them on their latest Expedition, providing an alligator and 'a major python' (charged by the metre) for Derek to defeat. But of course it's not quite that simple ...

Vampire bats, a drunkard with a gun, and an alligator with attitude all contribute to the decline and fall of Derek Badger, while Hiaasen does low-key riffs on ecological and environmental themes, rural poverty, child abuse, the shallowness of reality TV, and a popular teen vampire series. Wahoo is considerably more mature and sensible than his dad, though one does get the sense he's quite lonely. (And I'm still not sure how old he is, apart from 'old enough to get the job done', as he says to one of the production assistants.) Great fun: definitely lighter in tone and plot than his novels for adults, but still had me laughing out loud.

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