Saturday, September 11, 2010

Star IslandStar Island by Carl Hiaasen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always thought of Carl Hiaasen as the Raymond Chandler to Elmore Leonard's Dashiell Hammett -- while Leonard may have set the template for the breezy Florida-set caper yarn, Hiaasen took it in a more baroque, overtly satirical direction. In addition, his genuine outrage over the various predators and parasites who he sees as destroying his native state's culture and natural beauty grounds his narratives and saves them from being simply exercises in outrageousness for its own sake.

Nevertheless, in this novel, which revolves around the kidnapping of the "undercover stunt double" (read: actress hired to impersonate her whenever she's too wasted to appear in public) of Cherry Pye, a Britney Spears-like trainwreck of a pop singer, one can't help thinking that Hiaasen -- whose novels have previously targeted corrupt politicians, venal developers, and rapacious businessmen -- has gone after some very low-hanging fruit. Especially when one considers that a fondness for classic rock is the one true constant in all of Hiaasen's work: if a guy (and it's almost always a guy) likes, say, Creedence or the Beatles, you know he's unquestionably one of the Good Guys; likewise if a woman too young to have known the glories of Boomer Rock first hand likes it upon being exposed to it, you can bet she's just passed the audition to be the current book's Designated Love Interest. There's much that's eminently mockable about today's tween-pop, but Hiaasen's dislike, which often curdles into sheer contempt, too often has a "get off my lawn" quality to it, which gives the satire a certain tone-deafness, right down the name "Cherry Pye" itself, which would be a tad over-obvious for a second-tier porn actress, let alone a supposed teen idol.

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