As Britt Montero says on page 158, “this is getting confusing.” Indeed. I was all ready to give this book a two-star rating until I learned that the book was originally published weekly (making this a real serial novel), so I decided to be generous and throw in an extra star for the authors having to solve other people’s literary problems under pressure, along with whatever else the authors were all working on at the same time. Props especially go to Carl Hiaasen for making pretty good sense out of it all in such a short time frame.
Manatee as a character? Booger was cute, and worked surprisingly well, except in John Dufresne’s weird chapter, where Booger “talks” completely out of character and starts waxing philosophical. Fidel Castro (and an ever-growing number of Castro look-alikes) as a character? Not so much. Not that I’m a Castro scholar or anything, but it just didn’t seem like how he would act at all. Take a bribe from the US government to pretend to be dead, but really live the rest of his life in hiding, receiving top quality cancer treatment? Not bloody likely. The movie Sicko hadn’t come out yet, showing how Cuba’s health care system is better than ours.
Despite my cutting of slack over the limitations of writing well in a time crunch, it still seemed like this could have been better. There are some timing issues (on page 54, it’s 8am, then on 59 it’s 2am), where I couldn’t tell if we were jumping around on the same day, or if it was supposed to be a new day, but those inconsistencies hopefully could have been cleared up better. As some people have said before, there are a lot of characters introduced over a short number of pages, making it hard to keep everyone, especially the minor characters, straight, along with the shell game going on with Castro, the Castro impersonators, and the heads that may or may not belong to some of the above. And what is up with so many Americans being able to travel to Cuba without any apparent trouble? Even President Jimmy Carter gets sent over there in the end. I also wonder if Les Standiford regrets writing his star character John Deal into the story, and if the events herein are explained or simply forgotten/ignored in later John Deal books, if there are any.
The Detection Club did it best in [b:The Floating Admiral|719399|The Floating Admiral|Detection Club|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1324235251s/719399.jpg|2742444], although they weren’t on a strict deadline that I know of. [b:Naked Came the Phoenix|451023|Naked Came the Phoenix|Marcia Talley|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312000060s/451023.jpg|439658] is a bit silly, and almost as ridiculous, but I liked it a lot better, because I wasn’t thinking “now
what the hell is going on?” every few pages. Now, nearly 18 years from when the first chapter was written, Manatee can be looked back on as an interesting alternate history.