three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
49-Nov-Dec-2010
By: 
Carl Hiaasen
user_rating: 
0

A-Star IslandBorn and raised in South Florida, best-selling novelist and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen often explores environmental concerns while exposing the sordid social substrata of his native state in his fiction. Star Island, his twelfth novel, revisits some familiar characters: Skink, an ex-governor of Florida-turned-environmental activist, and Chemo, a former bouncer with a weed whacker for an arm. Reviewed: Skinny Dip (3.5 of 5 Stars Sept/Oct 2004), Nature Girl ( 3.5 of 5 Stars Mar/Apr 2007).

The Story: At 15, Cherry Pye (née Cheryl Bunterman) released her first hit single, "Touch Me Like You Mean It." Now 22, the spaced-out party girl's career is in trouble, and her parents, eager to preserve their lavish lifestyle, are determined to get her ready for a tour promoting her new album, Skankily Klad. But much to Cherry's dismay, "there's, like, eighteen songs [to learn] and they're all different." Meanwhile, her parents hire a look-alike actress, Ann DeLusia, to impersonate Cherry in public when she's too plastered to leave home. But when an obsessive paparazzo kidnaps Ann posing as Cherry, Cherry's handlers must rescue her body double while keeping her existence a secret.
Knopf. 352 pages. $26.95. ISBN: 9780307272584

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"These characters are so rich that it's easy to overlook the details that make this book especially juicy. ... As for the plot, it's tricky, and the ending ... is more like a disappearing act that doesn't quite tie up loose ends; Hiaasen finesses this with an epilogue." Carlo Wolff

Richmond Times-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"Star Island is so funny that you might not notice how many moving parts it has. (Think of the Marx Brothers, only with a lot more sex and profanity.) Hiaasen is a miniature clockmaker who works in big gestures, and he deserves credit for pulling off such a nifty piece of work." Doug Childers

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"There's the familiar collection of deliciously tawdry characters, each angling for a piece of the action in Florida, which he calls a land ‘hijacked by greedy suckworms disguised as upright citizens.' ... And there's the fast-moving plot, and the writing that makes you laugh out loud. Yes, it's Hiaasen, and he's turned out another gem." Malcolm Ritter

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Hiaasen, a Miami Herald columnist who has written 11 other novels, is off on another satirical romp, starring a Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan-like celebrity. ... Parts of the plot are over the top, even for Florida, but Hiassen's writing is graced by a lyrical cynicism." Bob Minzesheimer

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"All of this is enjoyable. But some of it creaks. It seems just dimly possible that the craziness of celebrity culture has outstripped Mr. Hiaasen's ability to make fun of it, since the real Lindsay Lohan story puts Cherry's old-school antics in the shade." Janet Maslin

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"What keeps Star Island from ascending to the author's upper echelon is the op-ed staleness that clings to its satire. Wandering outside his tropic comfort zone, Hiaasen hasn't come up with any insights more lancing than this: Show business is phony." Louis Bayard

St. Louis Post-Dispatch 2.5 of 5 Stars
"For one thing, most of his characters are caricatures at best, and outrageous caricatures at that. Then, there's his plot, whimsical and violent but wildly unrealistic. And in matters of taste, this book comes up dreadfully short." Harry Levins

Critical Summary

"There is precious little innocence in Carl Hiaasen's moral universe," muses the Washington Post, "only gradients of venality." Longtime admirers of Hiaasen's fiction will relish the wicked wit, fast-moving plot, and delightfully odious cast of characters in this satirical send-up of celebrity culture. However, some critics found Hiaasen's subject matter passé in the wake of the latest entertainment industry scandals, and one objected to contrived characters and plot developments. Despite their complaints, reviewers generally enjoyed Star Island, and readers will also laugh at Hiaasen's "latest celebration of the grotesques and morally ambiguous citizens of his native Florida" (San Francisco Chronicle), even if the novel doesn't rate as one of his best.