Praising Tim Dorsey’s tongue-in-cheek humor, the Miami Herald wrote, “Nobody, but nobody, writes like this guy.” Here Florida politics take the main stage in a rollicking satire that proves Dorsey’s at the top of his game. When a traumatic experience forever changes Florida gubernatorial race candidate Marlon Conrad’s life, he hits the road in a Winnebago to find the “real” Florida. But his odyssey is plagued with would-be assassins and cutthroat journalists.
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I have read five books now by Tim Dorsey, some in print, some in audio. As much as I love them, I hesitate to recommend them, because they really are seriously over the top -- they are not for everyone. In Orange Crush, I have found the exception to that rule.
The other books center on Serge Storms, the lovable sociopath with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Florida. What sets Serge apart from all of the other sociopaths who people Dorsey's Florida is his unique moral compass. I knew Serge was not going to be the main character of Orange Crush (he does figure in as a side character), and I knew I would miss not having him be the protagonist.
But I was pleasantly surprised to find that Marlon Conrad was a capable stand-in for Serge in the moral compass department. Marlon is not deranged like Serge, just naive, despite being governor of Florida. But he regains his political sanity in a remarkable sequence set in war-torn Kosovo and proceeds through the rest of the book as if he is a sane version of Serge setting things right (without, however, the Rube Goldberg murders that are Serge's stock in trade, here left for another character to commit).
So overall, I would heartily recommend Orange Crush to both Dorsey fans and newbies. Fans, don't worry about Serge not being all there -- but fans and newbies alike will enjoy this send-up of politics, written a year after Florida botched the presidential election of 2000. Sure, a lot of the satire is easy-pickings, low-hanging fruit. But Dorsey does a nice job of skewering all points on the spectrum, going to the well-worn but tried-and-true territory of looking at the system from the point of view of a jaded politician having come to his senses.
Marlon, especially after he comes back from Kosovo with his senses newly intact. Serge is the obvious favorite in other books, because he's the one who always ends up doing the right thing, even if he often gets there from wrong angle. In this book, it falls upon Marlon to be that character, and while he is no Serge, he is perfectly capable of carrying this satire. Jack Pimento is also good, starting out as an innocuous staffer but sneaking up on you as you go along.
This is the third Dorsey book I've listened to that was narrated by Wilson, and I've heard a couple of other titles of his by other authors. There's a reason why he is such a prolific audiobook narrator -- he is the consummate pro. While I missed his always entertaining voicing of Serge, he does the other voices well.
This is a black comedy, a political satire. So moments that move you are not supposed to be in the offing. But the section in Kosovo is a complete departure for Dorsey, and much of it is in fact moving, as it is meant to be, since it moves Marlon to become a different kind of person, a better one.
It's Funny 'Cause It's Pretty Much True!