Friday, March 1, 2013

Book Report: Insane City by Dave Barry

I’ve looked up many reviews for Dave Barry’s latest novel, Insane City. Not one yet has said, “Dave Barry’s Insane City is insane!” I’m kind of disappointed by that. I mean, it’s hack writing, and I wouldn’t say it, but it does describe the book perfectly. It’s pretty insane. One day I wish to write something like this, that seems like it’s headed for disaster until everything is wrapped up thanks to characters that have been moved along the chess board and end up in the right location.
                I won’t pretend for a moment that it’s has the most original plot on in the world. Seth just wants to get married to his shrewish bridezilla of a fiancée, his groomsmen just want to throw him a bachelor party to end all bachelor parties, so naturally along the way he’s going to meet someone else who treats him nicely, get drunk, and lose the ring. So, basically it’s like the Hangover but if it was written by way of… well, Dave Barry.
                It has been said that there are a limited amount of plots in the world. What makes this one different from all the others is the fact that this one also includes an overweight stripper and her boyfriend/manager; their Escalade; pot brownies; a guy named Duane and his giant python (not a euphemism); a super exclusive group of billionaires; Haitian refugees; an orangutan named Trevor; and the whole thing ends with a shootout on a pirate ship.   
                Let’s see Bradley Cooper top that!
                I enjoyed this book, and I read it way too quickly. It was fast paced, and there are at number of times five different things happening so pay close attention. Like many books, the setup takes a little bit to get used to, and the back and forth between Seth’s debauched bachelor party (which is actually kind of tame) and Haitian refugees slowly making their way to America is a little tough to take. Barry proves he’s got a decent writing style that manages to really manages to get inside people’s heads, so when he’s writing about a mother praying that they don’t drown, it can be a little tough to take. Fortunately, he does not let this drag on, so while there is the underlying current that they will be deported, it just adds to the hilarity when Seth tries to be a good guy and keeps them from going.
                There were parts, like I said, that were a little more predictable that do detract from the overall novel. Yes, Seth’s fiancée Tina is a shrew. Pretty much every one you’ve seen or read in any other romantic comedy that has you saying, “he shouldn’t be with her!” so you’re pretty much aware about fifteen pages in that he’s going to wind up with someone else. She’s the typical rich girl who runs to daddy the second that something goes wrong, even if she’s smuggling pot through an airport.
                Her father, while sort of the typical, “whatever my baby wants” at the start, actually evolves into a hilarious character in his own right. He wishes to join an elusive “Group of Six” which most billionaires want to join, and his character slowly goes from  being the stereotypical “what my baby wants” to a guy that wants to join a group that he’s not sure exists. These scenes are easily the best part of the book, and probably could have been a novel in their own right, simply for the absurdity of it all.
                And that may be what is sort of frustrating about this book. There’s so much happening one wonders that maybe a better book would have been written if he had trimmed out about half the characters, given the more time, and put them in another book. Then he could have really given time to some of the better parts, like Tina’s father and the billionaire he’s trying to impress. He could have devoted more time to the fact that Tina is mad at Seth for harboring illegal immigrants, and she’s done way more to save them because she’s signed petitions! There’s such a fantastic book on the fringes of an already great book… it’s just frustrating!
                None of what I just said should take away from the fact that this is Dave Barry’s writing style right down to the insane characters and the fact that it’s set in Miami. Basically I’m saying that this book is Dave Barry, and if you like Dave Barry, you’ll love this book. If you hate Dave Barry, well, then I would recommend trying out something new, that’s not Dave Barry. But this is up there with his other adult fiction works, Tricky Business and Big Trouble.
                I’m certainly looking forward to the next one.

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