Getting real. That’s the idea behind the ‘reality’ television programme in this new book by Carl Hiaasen. For those of you who still believe (in ‘reality’ on the screen), this will surely kill any lingering feelings for those scammers.
Sticking to the wilds of Florida and the creatures therein, Carl hasn’t only written another amusing caper about an assorted bunch of weirdos, but is taking a good long swipe at idiots on television, the money which rules their behaviour and perhaps also the credulous viewers who gobble it all up.
Described as his first YA novel, it is a little on the short side for me. The cast is smaller than I’ve come to expect, and consequently so are the interwoven bits of the action. What is there is great fun. I would simply have preferred more. Lots more. Carl’s previous children’s book – Scat – gained by being closer in length to his adult novels, whereas Chomp is much shorter.
This time the crazy and wild – but knowledgeable – man in the swamp is actually the father of the main character, Wahoo (not named after the fish), and he’s been hit on the head by a frozen iguana. Obviously. This makes it hard for him to do his job, which seems to consist of hiring himself and his wild animals out to film crews and whatever else comes up. But bills have to be paid. Wahoo’s mother goes off to China, leaving her two men to take on a well paid job for a wildlife reality show.
Although Wahoo’s dad has many suitable and almost tame animals, the over-confident star of the show decides to go ‘real.’ This turns out not to be such a good idea. So among the snakes and alligators and all other creepy and scaly and poisonous (or not) creatures, so well loved by Wahoo’s dad, we have a film crew on the loose, plus the added complication of a battered teenage girl whose vicious, gun-toting father is out looking for her.
That’s all, though. And fun though it is, it’s over far too quickly, with not nearly enough complications. Not even the idiot television star is 100% bad. That role has been left to the irate father of Wahoo’s friend.
And with all those ex-pet iguanas and pythons roaming free in Florida, I don’t feel disposed to go anywhere near. But it’s good that someone loves them. Even though they try to chew off body parts from those who do. Or squeeze them to death.
(I imagine the friendly alligator on the cover of the book must be the lovely and ‘tame’ Alice.)