Sunday, May 6, 2012

Audiobook review: Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

When Wahoo Cray convinces his dad, an eccentric animal wrangler, to accept a job with the reality show Expedition Survival, he didn't imagine all the shenanigans he'd have to wrangle himself - and others - out of while shooting on location in the Everglades.

Not only does Wahoo have to keep his dad from pummeling the egotistical, fraud of a host, Derek Badger, but he must also try to protect his friend Tuna (who managed to inadvertently tag along) from her gun-toting, drunk of a father.

Normally Derek Badger lives in the lap of luxury during his Expedition Survival shoots, being choppered off the primitive campsites to 5-star hotels and then flown back in the next morning to act out the remainder of various "real-life" survival scenarios. But when a storm moves through the Everglades on their first day of shooting and Derek's chopper can't fly in to get him, he must set up camp with the rest of his minions. It doesn't take long before Derek's desire for high ratings wins out over logic and he is bitten by a bat. Humiliated and delirious, Derek wanders off and soon goes missing. With an executive producer just itching to replace Derek with a more professional, less-demanding host, search and rescue efforts appear to be half-hearted at best.

With so many different volatile scenarios at play, readers are left to wonder if Derek Badger the survivalist will actually survive his own "reality" survival show.

I have always enjoyed reading Carl Hiaasen's books in the past. His stories will always have a political agenda, but they are told with heart and humor so the environmental evangelizing does not leave a bad taste in your mouth (then again, I myself am an environmental evangelizer so I guess my perspective would be a biased one). Chomp is probably the funniest of Hiaasen's four middle grade novels as it is somewhat of a commentary on the whole Bear Grylls controversy in Man vs. Wild where it was discovered he wasn't really actually "surviving" in the wild. Obviously Hiaasen's take on the controversy is much more satirized and extreme, but gives readers pause and forces us to ask ourselves: How real are reality shows? In some ways the lessons of this book are twofold: (1) respect the environment and wildlife (a constant theme throughout Hiaasen's novels) and (2) don't be gullible enough to think that reality shows are even close to reality. TV producers are always thinking about ratings and will manipulate anything to appear like it's really happening, when there is really a great deal of planning that goes on behind the scenes.

James Van Der Beek is the narrator of the audiobook and while I was never a watcher of Dawson's Creek when I was a teenager, even I managed to swoon a little listening to his deep, inviting voice. I loved how he ping-poinged between an American and Australian accent in his voice for Derek Badger, underscoring even further the phoniness of the character. But his voices for all of the characters in the story were on point and helped the listener to not just keep track of who was speaking, but also get a better sense of who they were as characters. To be able to create that sense of character with just your voice is an amazing acting talent. Based on this listening experience, I hope Van Der Beek continues to narrate audiobooks.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Audiobook Narrator: James Van Der Beek
Published: March 27, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 304
Audiobook Length: 6 hours, 13 minutes
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Audiobook checked out from library

1 comment:

  1. You've sold me on this one. I'm placing my hold right now! I loved Scat and the audiobook was done by Ed Asner. It sounds as if James Van Der Beek will be wonderful.