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Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates: A Novel Audio, Cassette – Audiobook, Unabridged

4.1 out of 5 stars 284 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The fierce invalid in Tom Robbins's seventh novel is a philosophical, hedonistic U.S. operative very loosely inspired by a friend of the author. "Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are enormously popular in the CIA," claims Switters. "Not with all the agents in the field, but with the good ones, the brightest and the best." Switters isn't really an invalid, but during his first mission (to set free his ornery grandma's parrot, Sailor, in the Amazon jungle), he gets zapped by a spell cast by a "misshapen shaman" of the Kandakandero tribe named End of Time. The shaman is reminiscent of Carlos Castaneda's giggly guru, but his head is pyramid-shaped. In return for a mind-bending trip into cosmic truth--"the Hallways of Always"--Switters must not let his foot touch the earth, or he'll die.

Not that a little death threat can slow him down. Switters simply hops into a wheelchair and rolls off to further footloose adventures, occasionally switching to stilts. For a Robbins hero, to be just a bit high, not earthbound, facilitates enlightenment. He bops from Peru to Seattle, where he's beguiled by the Art Girls of the Pike Place Market and his 16-year-old stepsister, and then off to Syria, where he falls in with a pack of renegade nuns bearing names like Mustang Sally and Domino Thirry. Will Switters see Domino tumble and solve the mystery of the Virgin Mary? Can the nuns convince the Pope to favor birth control--to "zonk the zygotic zillions and mitigate the multitudinous milt" and "wrest free from a woman's shoulders the boa of spermatozoa?" Can the author ever resist a shameless pun or a mutant metaphor?

The tangly plot is almost beside the point. Switters is a colorful undercover agent, and a Robbins novel is really a colorful undercover essay celebrating sex and innocence, drugs and a firm wariness of anything that tries to rewire the mind, and Broadway tunes, especially "Send in the Clowns." Some readers will be intensely offended by Switters's yen for youth and idiosyncratic views on vice. But fans will feel that extremism in the pursuit of serious fun is virtue incarnate. Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates is classic Tom Robbins: all smiles, similes, and subversion. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume; Still Life with Woodpecker) will be delighted to find that his first book in almost six years contains many of the elements they have come to expect from this imaginative author. Sex, sedition and similes abound in a tale of loves both indictable and divine. Unlike Robbins's previous work, however, the novel's story line, though typically eclectic, feels contrived. Switters, the protagonist, is an errand boy for the CIA, a secret lover of Broadway show tunes and a pedophile. On assignment in Peru (he has been ordered to verify the philosophical commitment of a new CIA recruit), Switters encounters a Kandakandero medicine man who gives him mind-altering drugs and wisdom, but in exchange inflicts a curse: if Switters's feet ever touch the ground, he will be struck dead instantly. So Switters spends the rest of the novel in a wheelchair, although this in no way slows him down. He returns to Seattle, chases after his 16-year-old stepsister and numerous art students, then embarks on a mission to Syria to sell gas masks to Kurds; there, he beds a nun who even so remains a virgin. In true Robbins style, the writing throughout is lush and sexy, containing a great deal of witty social and political commentary. But this time around, his story fails to catch hold until too far into the text. And although Robbins's signature prose is in effect here--he mentions, for example, "a pink wink of panty"--he leaves too many loose ends dangling. Agent, Phoebe Larmore. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553527320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553527322
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 2.7 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (284 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,010,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I went to see a performance of "Stomp" - and I sat there with this silly grin on my face throughout the whole exciting, creative and heart thumping event.
It's the same silly grin I had on my face while reading this novel - and for the same reasons. I love the way this man writes - he makes me fall in love with language and ideas all over again. I am rolling in the language the way a dog rolls in a particularly pungent patch in the woods - and I am loving every redolent moment.
I suppose those who feel that Mr. Robbins' work contains unbelievable plots twists are looking for something a little too linear in this surreal world - but as for me, the whole process of living itself is pretty darn non-linear and full of unbelieveable plot twists.
I am particularly fond of the diatrabes on religion and advertising. I love the thoughts regarding Mary and the possible reason why she never mentions Jesus .....
"Jitterbug Perfume" caused me to shift into a permanent suspension of disbelief, and I was thrilled to get this booster shot.
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Format: Hardcover
No one else writes like Tom Robbins. But thank goodness he does. Not only does he tell a ripping good yarn, but the language he uses shows you that he obviously takes the time to chew and taste each sentence thoroughly. He is in love with words, and it shows on every page. He takes an ordinary scene and makes you see it in a completely new way. For instance, he describes a sunset as the sun dropping like a gold coin into a slot and ocean biting the coin to make sure it is really gold. And you can actually SEE it right along with him. It's so damned, as Switters calls South America, "VIVID."
I've read every Tom Robbins book, except I'm not quite done with this one yet, but it promises to be just as wild and exhilerating of a ride as any of his best ones (which in my opinion are Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All, and Still Life with Woodpecker).
Tom Robbins tops my list of people I'd like to go drinking with. I highly recommend that everyone go out and read this, and every other one of his books.
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Format: Hardcover
Tom Robbins' books fall into three categories for me:
I. Pure genius (incl. Roadside, Cowgirls, and Jitterbug)
II. Respectable flights of fancy (Skinny Legs)
III. Lukewarm efforts (Still Life, Frog Pajamas)
That's not to say that all in (I) are five-star champions and all in (III) are horrible one-star waste of times. I've never come across a viable reason to give anything Tom's written less than four-stars (on the Amazon.com scale). Fierce Invalids is no exception. It is a third-tier Robbins book, but that makes it better than 99% of the drek out there.
It's unique (not "most unique") in the Robbins' oeuvre for one simple reason: a male protagonist. Switters is the literary equivalent of a bipolar disorder: he hates organizations, yet is a member of both the CIA and a convent; he believes in laughter as the road to Nirvana, yet he carries a Beretta with him wherever he goes; he's world-wise and pragmatic, yet spends the last two third of the story confined to a wheelchair due to a shaman's curse. This theme of binary opposition runs rampant through the book, and it gives the reader something tangible to hang on to, something Robbins usually is hesitant to do.
Midway through the narrative, I realized that all that I enjoyed about the first half of the book has been destroyed, and I was wondering how Tom would pull it all together in the end (he always does). He does -- although slightly more melodramatic than usual, I was satisfied with the knots he made to tie up the loose ends.
As for his most unique (couldn't help myself here, Tom) ability to wield the swords of simile and metaphor, it has never been sharper.
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Format: Paperback
Understand something before you read this: Giving Tom Robbins anything less than 5 stars feels to me like stabbing myself in the soul with a rusty spork. I love Tom Robbins. Tom Robbins is an amazing and fantastic writer who I can't praise enough. Tom Robbins: I love you.

This book, though... Well. It's tried my love a little bit. Part of the genius of Jitterbug Perfume was how mind-numbingly clever he was. His characters were honest in the way that vaudeville performers are honest--there was just enough caricature to maintain the reader's sanity and to keep the book from plummeting into some kind of bizarre social reflection. The genius of that book is the way Tom Robbins takes something completely inane and turns into poetry. It's a Dali painting in literary form.

Fierce Invalids is proof that you can't recreate genius. Throughout the book, I get the feeling that Tom Robbins (his name must always be written in full. Anything less and it's blasphemy) sought to create a one-line zinger with every single sentence. Zingers don't work that way, Tom Robbins. Zingers are spontaneous and make you go, "huh! That was pretty darn clever!" You can't just write a million of them and hope that a thousand of them take.

The characters, too, elicit very little sympathy. There's no real soul there to identify with. They're entertaining, but only in the sense that the guy at the party who is so drunk he's shoving chips down his pants is entertaining. You like looking at him making a total jerk of himself, but you'd really rather avoid being seen with him, since he's kind of embarassing and not too interesting in the long run. Quite frankly, the best character in this book is the parrot and he, sadly, gets eaten.
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