Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Orange Crush

Orange Crush
Orange Crush by Tim Dorsey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: Read in 2006, but such a good book I want to make sure this review is seen again!

Marlon Conrad never had to do any real work in his life, being raised in the traditional Ultra Conservative Way ("Marlon Conrad learned everything he knew about life from his father . . . Rule Number One: At any given moment, poor people, somewhere, somehow, were screwing them. From this maxim all other rules flowed."), until - while running for Lt. Governor - a reporter uncovered the fact that he had not registered for Selective Service. In order to get some extra votes, his father decided he should join the National Reserve and get things set up so that he wouldn't actually be called to duty. However, in a remarkable chain of events, Marlon was not only called to active duty in the Balkans, but his unit ended up in bloody conflict. Initially refusing to have anything to do with the rest of the men in his unit, Marlon bonded with them one night over a bottle of vodka disguised as Scope that had been smuggled to him, and after they were attacked and most of his unit killed, Marlon returned to Florida a changed man, much to the chagrin and consternation of his former friends. Things just became worse when the governor was killed in a jet crash.

This book pokes fun at all things government, particularly having to do with the running of a political campaign. Even the character's names fit in with the satire - Jackie Monroeville is the rags-to-government-crowd girl who is determined to see Marlon's competition (Gomer Tatum) win; Helmut von Zepplin is the ultimate mega-developer and big-money man that everyone kow-tows to; Gottfried Escrow is Marlon's chief of staff, etc. Tatum challenges Marlon to a "smack-down" on live TV at "Raw is War!", to which Marlon remarks "So this is where we've evolved" only to have his press secretary reply "Actually, it can't help but add dignity to the process."

Dorsey's descriptions are a form of art, albeit occasionally more in line with surrealism than reality. The timeline tends to jump from past to present, which can be jarring at times, but it all ends up flowing seamlessly together. Marlon buys an RV with the Orange Crush logo and goes on the road, traveling Florida to meet the masses; he ends up having several people decide to kill him (unbeknownst to him), only to meet ignominous ends themselves. A homicide detective from Miami wanders along behind, following the trail of bodies and trading strange wise cracks with the local guys.

Each character that spoke was developed by his or her lines; even if they didn't speak, if they were there long enough, their actions developed them. Mr. Dorsey has a genius for characterization that goes a long way. I also loved that fact that fun was poked equally at all politicos - Albert Fresco, the independent party candidate, when asked what he thought about the need to increase staffing for child protective services, responds "No, no, no! I can't be bothered with that pointy-headed issue stuff! I've got common sense and I've had it up to here!... Did I already mention that I'm madder than a sumbitch?..." while Gomer Tatum readily switches his position on issues whenever he feels it will garner him more votes. Anyone who feels that this book is unfairly slanted against conservatives should take note - it is not, it is slanted against professional politicians and at the end, it is all about the attempt of the common man to rise about the pettiness of it all.

By the way, do not fail to read the HYSTERICAL piece at the end "A Note on the Type." I usually read the paragraph describing the typeface, so when I noticed how long this was, I was intrigued - don't skip this, you won't regret it!

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