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The Ridiculous Race Paperback – July 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hely and Chandrasekaran are friends, TV comedy writers, and 20-something Los Angelinos who decide to circle the globe and make a race of it, starting in LA and going in opposite directions. The hook: no planes. Told in alternating voices, their story fails to engage, but is funny. Hely, for example, arranges passage on a container ship from Long Beach to Shanghai: "about as exciting as a giant floating Kinkos... Entire days I spent staring at the ocean. I read so much that my eyes broke and I couldn't see words." Chandrasekaran begins his adventure with a days-long drive to Mexico City, where he makes an absurd attempt to purchase a jetpack. Beyond comedy, the experiment yields little. Virtually formless, the narrative becomes a slave to its subject, racing from antic to antic without slowing for reflection or a sense of the world's impact on the travelers. At the finish line, Hely confesses that their conclusion is "impossibly anticlimactic," but given the setup it's more like an inevitability. What's seemingly impossible (and unfortunate) is how quickly this speedy narrative runs out of momentum.
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“No one should set off for a plane ride, a day at the beach, or a lengthy visit to the bathroom without a copy of The Ridiculous Race. I laughed so much I almost died from a lack of oxygen reaching my brain.” ―Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and American Dad!

“…will make readers laugh and cry, often simultaneously. Hely's Victorian notions of world travel and the glory of bygone eras provide the perfect foil for Chandrasekaran's glib embrace of the comforts of modern life. Their comically inoffensive braggadocio is akin to your older brother's tales of his misspent youth; Chandrasekaran and Hely might be slightly obnoxious, but therein lies their charm. Hilarious travel writing for the chronically snarky.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Riotous fun.” ―People Magazine

“Hilarious.” ―Entertainment Weekly

“Reads like a 300-page Simpsons episode.” ―WIRED

“Hilarious race around the world.” ―Publisher's Weekly

“This is one of the funniest books I've read in years….The hilarity lasts the whole way.” ―Anne Stephenson, The Arizona Republic


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Edition edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805087400
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805087406
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #508,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Derek J. Archambault on September 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
I haven't laughed while reading a book as much as I did reading this one in a while. It is exactly what you would expect from a couple of television comedy writers (My Name is Earl and Family Guy!) who decide to race around the world without using airplanes. If you're not a fan of those shows/that type of humor, then you may want to stay away.

While their comedic talents really shine through in the book, the book is also fascinating from a travel and cultural perspective. For example, this is personally the most I've ever read about Mongolia. Of course, based on the descriptions in the book, it may also be the most I WILL EVER read about Mongolia, but it made for several very funny stories.

The book is a light, easy read, with no real chapters, but instead with short sections, alternating between the two authors. Easy to get through, very funny, very entertaining and very recommended for anyone who likes a little bit of humor thrown in with their travelogues.
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Book Overview

In 2007, two friends -- Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran -- embarked on a race around the world without using airplanes. Steve traveled West, and Vali traveled East. The first guy who circled the planet and make it back to Los Angeles would be declared the winner. The prize? A bottle of the finest Scotch they could find.

Not being just ordinary guys (both are writers for television comedy shows), they were able to get a book advance to bankroll their trip. The result was this book, which chronicles each man's journey.

Steve -- the more serious of the two and the one committed to racing by following the rules -- starts his trip on board the container ship Hanjin Athens. As such, he is able to definitively answer the question: Is fourteen days on the Pacific a grand, romantic adventure or crushingly boring? To quote Steve:

The short answer is "crushingly boring."

By the time we left port, it was clear that the greatest danger facing me wasn't pirates or storms. Or sharks. Or giant squid, Or flesh-eating jellyfish. Or being raped and stabbed by sailors. Or string rays.

It was keeping my idle mind from destroying itself.

After this journey, Steve takes a road trip through China (including a gut-wrenching but hilarious night at the Peking Opera) and ends up on a train that takes him through Mongolia (with a brief stop at Ulaanbaatar , which he affectionately dubs "A City for People Who Hate Cities.") Along the away, he becomes obsessed with drinking fermented mare's milk. (Wonder what fermented mare's milk tastes like? Here is Steve's description: "Get some half-and-half and a can of warm Sprite. Mix the two in a glass. Let sit for a few days on top of your radiator.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Patrick J. Escarcega on September 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book started off with a bang. It follows the story of two young men, Vali and Steve as they first make a wager to travel the world without airplanes, and then commence their journey.

But as the book labors on, I got the feeling not only did Vali give up on the integrity of the race, but also gave up trying to write a book. Which is a shame, as he is the more gifted of the two writers.

This book had some very funny moments, some that made me laugh out loud, but honestly it felt like homework reading this book at times.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By I am on December 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is not a classic travel memoir, but it is quite funny. I particularly enjoyed the vastly different perspectives of the authors. In order to have a good time reading this book, I believe it's important to recognize that it's really a contest about two things. One is the linear concept of going around the world, and the other is a little more difficult to define: the awesomeness quotient.

The authors are immature at times and not the paragons of good taste. But they are comedy writers. And it's rare to find a book that truly makes you laugh so hard that others are looking at you as if to say, "What are you reading?"

It also makes you truly want to travel, and that is the most important thing about a travel book in my opinion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Mad Hatter VINE VOICE on June 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Ridiculous Race is an aptly titled hilarious travel narrative of two friends racing around the world in opposite directions for an expensive bottle of scotch. The twist is no airplanes are allowed. Both authors are comedy writers on different major shows. Hely for American Dad and Chandrasekaran for My Name is Earl. Judging from the writing I would have thought they'd be writing for the opposite shows just based on how off-the-wall Chandrasekaran antic's are and how grounded Hely seems. Chandrasekaran is most definitely not against pulling something underhanded and starts off shamefully with a scene involving a pair of hand-cuffs.

The Ridiculous Race grew out of one Steve and Vali's friendly get-togethers in which they always try to out do one another. One almost thinks that they actually wanted to write a book together before they decided what it would be. Nevertheless, the outcome is a hilarious journey around the world by two guys without a clue. The narrative switches between Hely and Chandrasekaran from their sometime immature points of view, which makes this a very breezy read. Chandrasekaran certainly causes a lot of comedic scenes along the way as it seems like he would love to cause an international incident, while Hely is a little too planned out at times although about halfway around the world he loses the drive in the race and decides to just have a good time. Not to say Hely is less funny than Chandrasekaran as Hely certainly has a way with words. When he described a sauce he tried as turtle mucus I couldn't stop laughing for a couple pages. Yeah it is that type of humor at times.
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