Micah's Reviews > Big Trouble

Big Trouble by Dave Barry
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's review
Aug 24, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: humor
Recommended for: people with a higher tolerance for zany non-sequitor humor than I have
Read from August 24 to September 08, 2010

There's a certain kind of rococo, hyperactive plotting that you tend to see from authors who aren't used to writing stories with a great deal of plot -- they understand that "plot" tends to denote Characters Doing Things, so everyone is constantly Doing Things, or on their way to go Do Things, or arguing about how they have to Do Things and how This Other Thing They Are Doing is interfering with this goal. The plot pushes the characters briskly from one Terribly Exciting Situation to another, and neither the characters nor the reader get a chance to breathe.

Frenetic, breathless plotting can work decently in a character-driven screwball comedy; it isn't inherently a bad thing. But when the plot pushes the characters rather than the other way around, they cease to be characters and instead become panicky vehicles for Wacky Hijinks.

This -- plus the fact that the threat of sexual violence is pretty much guaranteed to derail any existing comedy -- accounts for why I did not care for Big Trouble.

Dave Barry packs the story with characters who range from bemused everymen to aggressively quirky plot-generating machines; he gives elaborate backstories to people who only appear for half a scene, which, rather than giving the appearance of depth, seems like he's populating his world with an army of one-dimensional punchlines. This is a problem especially when you don't set up the joke ahead of time -- it reads like "oh hey, look, another hilariously quirky extra!" rather than being a satisfying payoff for an existing theme. (No, "Miami so crazy" is not an existing theme.)

I understand that Dave Barry is agreed to be a funny dude; I also understand that he mostly writes humorous articles that don't rely on plot to carry them. His brand of humor, as presented in this book, is much better suited for short satirical pieces.

And that's okay. He doesn't have to be a novelist.

(He really doesn't.)
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael Kortsen "Recommends it for: people with a higher tolerance for zany non-sequitor humor than I have"

That'd be me.

Micah Michael wrote: ""Recommends it for: people with a higher tolerance for zany non-sequitor humor than I have"

That'd be me."

Good, and you're welcome to it! Every book has its audience. :)

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