Gone Whalin' Kindle Edition
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I usually try to give some sort of a plot summary in a review, but in this case I wouldn't like the pleasant madness of Gone Whalin' unfolding storyline to be spoiled. It's enough to know that the protagonist is an average, slightly-stoned/drunk college kid, Cormac McIlhenney, who inexplicitly wakes up on alternate days in the belly of a 19th century whaling ship, leaving his unconscious body resting in the present day.
The parts of the book that were so appealing to me were the strange dual little universes that Lastowka creates. I loved the university setting with its joyfully corrupt dean, its spineless board, its population of stoners, minor drug dealers, painfully slacking students and opportunistic cult members. The section where Cormac, his roommate and the college dean visited a local dive bar ended up being where I first learned how to use my Kindle's highlight function, because several of the passages were wonderfully and perversely funny, and needed to be remembered.
The other half of the book -- the adventures on-board the whaling ship -- is equally entertaining and enjoyable. That universe also has a fun cast of characters, who -- like the fellows in the present day -- are presented almost as over-the-top caricatures, but never as lazy or dull cliches.
There's something that reminded me of Douglas Adams about the book. I appreciated the way Lastowka initially presents an absurd premise but then sticks with it and drags every last possible drop of humor from it. His prose also had faint reminders of Adams, although with far more emphasis on whale penises than the Hitchhiker's author ever attempted.
Gone Whalin' is Conor Lastowka's first novel, but it certainly has the self-assurance of a work from a more mature writer. It has a casual and confident style which made it easy to jump in and out of. I'm looking forward to Lastowka's next novel. And if they ever film the movie version of Gone Whalin', I pray that Karl Welzein is available to play Captain Anson.
Gone Whalin' splits its time between crazy events in two time periods the main character Cormac switches between every other day. In the past he finds himself surprisingly ept among an inept crew of whalers led by an incompetent captain heavily assisted by a competent ex-slave. In the present he's basically a loser surrounded by even bigger losers. Several of these losers who have reason to believe Cormac is being truthful try to take advantage of the situation by turning unconscious Cormac into a sort of sideshow attraction, while trying to keep him from realizing what's going on.
The title of the book emphasizes the whaling side, but I might prefer reading about the people surrounding unconscious Cormac. The roommate who decides towel-only is the next step in clothing. The incredibly unscrupulous school dean trying to prevent one of the few ways he can get fired. The cult that forms around Cormac. The mysterious cool dogs in sunglasses who are the life of the party. I want more people to read this book so I can say things like "By rounding this review to 5 stars instead of 4 am I being too much of a Brock?" and actually be understood.
The length--over 600 pages in print--is a blessing and curse. The pacing can seem off. There's a section that in another book I'd swear would be the climax, but in Gone Whalin' was about the halfway point. Then the real ending kind of snuck up on me without a lot of warning other than running out of pages. Rarely does the narrative seem to drag, though, so it's hard to be too hard on what are essentially extra hundreds of pages of fun content over the average book.
The novel was a fun read, if you like authors such as Dave Barry, Bill Fitzhugh, Carl Hiaasen you should definitely give this a go!