Native Tongue

n57035Title: Native Tongue.

Author: Carl Hiaasen.

Summary: PR man Joe Winder didn’t believe the theft of the last two blue-tongued voles on Earth from a billionaire’s Florida theme park. He just wrote the story. Asking questions later was his biggest mistake. Before he could say Robbie Raccoon, he was hiding out in the Everglades with a one-eyed man and gun-toting granny in pink curlers – and ready to put the skids on the craziest crime con in the history of the state…

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: My fourth Carl Hiaasen book, i knew what to expect. I knew in what ways i would enjoy it, and it what ways to brace myself for crap. Hiasaen did not buck his trend and my expectations were in no way disappointed with this book.

The pros: It’s silly and funny and made me laugh out loud. The whole premise (the ongoing attempts to sabotage a poor imitation Disneyland theme park and its owner’s plans to destroy a large section of Floridian wildlife in order to build a golf course) is ridiculous and only gets more slapstick as the book progresses, but the progression of the ridiculousness is so gradual, you barely notice it happening and don’t stop to question it.

The storytelling is actually very good. The small hints and subtle foreshadowing is perfection. A couple of times they caught me out completely, but often a small mention of something had me thinking, “I hope that’s…” and when it turned out it was, i could only grin with glee.

The characters. The characters i am divided on pretty much 50/50. The male characters are all well done, all interesting with diverse personalities. The females are a sack of shit.

Let’s start with the males. Skink, a returning character from Hiaasen’s last book, will always steal the show. He has strong ethics and dubious morals, he’s just the kind of character i love. But really, Pedro Luz, steroid guzzling theme park security head steals the spot as my favourite character in this book. Not because i liked him, to be frank, i couldn’t wait for him to die. He was my favourite because he was so bloody entertaining. When someone chews off their own foot and brags about it to anyone who’ll listen, how can you not love them?

Bud and Danny i loved as a criminal duo. Favouring the burglary of empty properties and hating guns, they are suddenly thrust into kidnapping, extortion and deals with the Mafia. Danny is an uneducated but ultimately kind hearted coward. Bud is more pragmatic and could be considered the brains of the operation. They have an unspoken loyalty to one another, but it’s a loyalty neither of them would ever want to test.

As expected, from previous Hiaasen books, his female characters are poor. The best he can do in this book is Molly McNamara, a rich old lady who campaigns tirelessly for the Florida wilderness. The reason Molly is Hiaasen’s best female character to date? Even Hiaasen finds it difficult to sexualise an elderly lady.

It is immensely frustrating. On the one hand, Hiaasen seems to point at and mock the over-sexualised image of women (with a grotesquely over-large photograph of a naked woman at the nineteenth hole of a golf course or the dumbing down of a historical show in order to “show more tits and ass”), but he himself does nothing to make his female characters anything but typical clichés of this; they serve little-to-no purpose except as sexual objects for the male characters.

As much as i enjoyed all aspects of the book except the blatant sexism, i will never be able to give Hiaasen more than three stars until he writes more realistic female characters.

Skin Tight

17210137Title: Skin Tight.

Author: Carl Hiaasen.

Summary: Somebody wants Mick Stranahan dead. He knows this because he’s just had to spear an intruder with a stuffed marlin’s head. And that wasn’t the first time. There was the plastic surgeon with extremely shaky hands… the personal injury lawyer with the beaming billboard face… the vanity-crazed star of TV’s In Your Face… and the high-stepping hit man with the moonscape skin. Not to mention the barracuda. The whole thing is downright harrowing.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5

Review: Hiaasen’s books are easy reads, they entertain. But i doubt i will ever give one of his books more than three stars. Sure, i laugh out loud pretty often, or smile when the bad guy gets himself deeper into trouble, and pull a face at but secretly enjoy the graphic violence. But those alone does not a good story make. I can enjoy a book without it being a good book.

Hiaasen is not terribly good with characters. I will admitting to liking two of the characters in this book. But they were the bad guys, so i don’t think i was supposed to. They were simply the most entertaining. I loved reading about Chemo’s disfigured face and the way he dealt with people who didn’t say very nice things to him about it. I loved reading about Rudy’s mishaps in the operating theatre and how he attempted to cover them up.

Perhaps the fact that i enjoyed reading about what those two characters got up to was why i found the end so unsatisfying. I’m not meant to be unhappy at the fact they won’t get to have any more misadventures. But it’s more than that. There was a good amount of build up to the final show down, but the showdown itself seemed lacking. Not enough banter, not enough action. It just kind of fell flat.

And i didn’t like any of the ‘good guys’. I use inverted commas because the good guys were nefarious in the way they went about catching the bad guys. Which is fine by me. But when the good guys are also pretty nasty and miserable, it does not endear me to them. Even Al Garcia, a recurring character in Hiaasen’s books, was unlike-able in this book. The good guys were just so boring and unhappy in an unentertaining way.

I don’t even want to get started on the female characters. Hiaasen simply can not write a realistic and believable female character. They are stereotyped beyond belief, and it makes me sick and angry. We have the young, busty, naked sunbathing girl who wants to sleep with any man who crosses her path. We have the bimbo airhead actress who wants surgery to reignite her career. We have the bitter ex-wife who won’t give up on revenge even though she’s remarried to a rich guy. And we have the married-to-her-job woman, who’s only interested in the guy for her work, but by the end has quit her job and spends her time trying to find the guy she initially didn’t want. How can every female character in a book be defined by her physically appearance (and obsession with) or a man? I could spout angry words about this for a long time, but i shall refrain.

That’s kind of all i’ve got to say. It’s an okay book. Easy to read, sometimes really funny and sometimes really bad. It lacks substance. It lacks believable characters that i want to care about. It’s great to read when you don’t want to think, but that’s about it.