In deadpan first-person, Edgar, a 20-year-old pizza deliveryman in San Diego, tells within a few pages about his short stint at Humboldt State, hitching to Colorado Springs and landing a low-level job at a swanky hotel. When he receives a postcard from tropical Poisson Rouge Island that says simply, "I found your paradise, Johnny," Edgar joins his erstwhile college pal there. Teeming mosquitoes, housing that's either hideously expensive or impoverished, and the local zombies (which may be real) make the place less than idyllic, and when Edgar takes up with Johnny's girlfriend, their affair puts Edgar at the quarry end of a darkly comic version of The Most Dangerous Game. Ballantine (God Clobbers Us All) stretches young male aimlessness and foolishness to the breaking point, spiking the thin plot with excellent car crash descriptions: "Something explodes under the hood and a hot fog spews the windshield. We skid on the turn, hop through a pothole, thump over something that feels like a dog or a corpse, and crash softly into the bush, the spiky shadows of the leaves spreading darkly over us." It's a downmarket version of Ben Kunkel's Indecision, with less surety but real vibrancy. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This second novel from Ballantine (after God Clobbers All) initially conjures images of Lord of the Flies, but then you would have to add about ten years to protagonists' ages and make them sex-crazed, gold-seeking alcoholics. Kicked out of college for excessive carousing, Edgar Donahoe flees his native San Diego and travels east. Eventually, he receives a postcard from college buddy Mountain Moses, who claims to have found paradise on a Caribbean island called Poisson Rouge. Fed up with America's greedy excesses and eager to escape the clutches of technology and materialism, Edgar joins his friend, but he soon discovers how quickly the simple life can turn wretched. Ballantine writes with the smugness of an ex-frat boy and seems to be having loads of fun, occasionally at the reader's expense. Most readers will overdose on Edgar's cute one-liners by the first half of the book, and when an apocalyptic hurricane rips through the island, it's difficult to care whether or not any of these characters survive. Ballantine does demonstrate flashes of skill, however, especially when describing lush island scenes. Recommended for large fiction collections.-Kevin Greczek, Ewing, NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.