Star Island is the new novel by American author Carl Hiaasen and chart's the ups and downs of Cherry Pye, Cherry is a girl in her early 20's who is a pop star, who has a drug habit, is sex crazed and has zero singing talent. She has been pushed forward by publicity seeking parents, media savvy moguls and all is based on her looks and her behaviour, her behaviour is always extreme and rather than be sanctioned by her parents and management team is actively encouraged to maintain a high profile on the celebrity pages of the national presses.
Carl Hiaasen is a novelist who delights in poking fun at the macabre underbelly of American society, he tends to focus his novels on the Florida area and they tend to feature the unpleasant sides of the populist American tourism traps. So his books tend to focus on the seedy with plenty of strip clubs, dodgy real-estate scams and unsavoury sorts who want to make a buck on the back of the more acceptable face of America. In this novel he pokes fun at the pop idol, celebrity pages in the National enquirer and the excesses of such characters as Kim Kardashian, J lo, Winona Ryder, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton etc who have minimum talent but tend to enjoy air time for their misdemeanours more than any real talent.
His novels are as always sharply sarcastic and he takes great pleasure in showing the casual tourist just what hangs underneath the acceptable in modern America. In this novel, he clearly enjoyed creating a monster in the publicity loving Cherry, she is vain, stupid, and horny, tends to pick fights and be in sex tapes with a frightening regularity. She is the centre of the novel, and without any irony is the vapid daughter of a pair of parents who will let their child do anything to maintain media coverage and that includes being in an explicit under the counter sex tape and being photographed taking drugs.
So when Cherry is kidnapped by one of the paparazzi, they are desperate for control over the media output from Cherry and her kidnapper. When the pair sleep together on a plane, we are now in it for the long haul as the kidnapper's demands, Cherry's desires and the parent's needs are all played out in the full media glare.
As with all Carl Hiassen books, it's his odd ball set of characters which differentiates average from genius, here we have the jaded photographer (Bang Abbott), the drug crazed Cherry, the damaged security guard (Chemo) and his recurring character the reformed ex-governor Skink. Indeed Skink is here in his most prominent role, in previous books he tends to appear as an occasional character in the book for a couple of chapters but here he is in the book from chapter 3 till the very end. He does all the things we love about Skink, he prophesises, he condemns, he seems to have a sixth sense for the moral high-ground and he does something in a prominent lawyer's top-loading washing machine.
Carl Hiaasen isn't everyone's cup of tea, the book is full of satire, sarcasm and social comment but his ability to write humour and adventure is second to none and he tends to have endings which don't always end as the reader expects. Here he doesn't disappoint, the book is full of pointing fingers at the absurd and saying look this is in every paper we buy and some of us buy the paper or magazine just to see the latest shocking photograph.
In my opinion this book doesn't quite hit the heights of Striptease or Native tongue but that's a very harsh criticism it would be like comparing the top 5 goals in the premiership last season with the top five from the last ten years. I think everything seemed normal and in some ways art and real life never really collide but Cherry Pye decides to change her name herself as Cherrish, I only say this because the week I read this novel Cheryl Cole decided to call her herself Cheryl.