From Publishers Weekly
When a videotape catches meek college teacher Danny Clayton uncontrollably laughing after a terrorist massacre in Denton's provocative new novel, Danny becomes a reviled celebrity: Laughin' Boy. It seems only natural that he join with the similarly loathed Porno Girl and the Racist Ranger to form the Odd Squad, the superheroes people love to hate. Their fame does, however, mean that the murderous terrorists are ignored, frustrating their desire for notoriety and motivating them to do whatever's necessary to reclaim center stage. Pop psychologists, the FBI and TV producers are also circling like vultures. Meanwhile, Danny tries to discover, more or less unaided, why he's laughing and how he can stop. If he can save himself, maybe he can help his equally unhappy cohorts escape their compulsions. Denton's ear for the cacophony of talk radio, chatrooms and political interviews is flawless. He also has a good eye for the painful absurdities of a world bloated with information but starved for understanding. Like his mentor Mark Twain, Denton (Lunatics
) has trouble resolving the characters' dilemmas believably; still, he sets up the problem memorably.
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During an outdoor carnival in Wichita, Kansas, an unidentified group of hooded gunmen unleashes a volley of grenades and gunfire, killing 86 people. Knocked from a dying victim's hands, a video camera inadvertently films a man laughing hysterically at the carnage. Dubbed Laughin' Boy by the press, and vilified by an outraged American public, Danny Clayton is cleared by the FBI of any wrongdoing but quickly becomes the pawn of grandstanding pop psychologists, who diagnose his giggling reactions to tragedy as a bizarre mental affliction arising from bad parenting and too much TV. Taking advantage of his sudden celebrity, the FBI enlists Danny in a scheme to star in a TV show and provoke the Wichita gunmen into exposing themselves. A past winner of the World Fantasy award, Denton is a veteran satirist whose works often straddle the line between fantasy and mainstream fiction. Here, Denton deftly surveys the landscape of contemporary media and its current obsession with terrorism in a finely nuanced and entertaining black comedy. Carl HaysCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved