The Pole Vault Championship of the Entire Universe by Conor Lastowka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After a slow, dad joke-filled start I was wondering whether I had found myself in a mire of bland, unfunny madcap shenanigans that would never manage to right itself.
But Conor Lastowaka manages to step up his game once he makes it past the awkward introductions to his "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"-like intergalactic goof, he's able to interject occasional strings of hilarious, belly laugh-erupting writing.
Comedy novels are among the toughest to write, so a certain measure of inconsistency is expected, but Lastowka's work extends the full range of comedic success and failure to a degree I've never seen.
The story follows two threads: One of an eccentric, self-fashioned dictator of a platform-country the size of half a football field he calls "Hawall" in order to trick Hawaii-bound tourists into visiting by accident. He recruits his estranged granddaughter to visit and compete, while also continuing the family tradition of wearing a dirty, ruined and mind-manipulating costume. The other is about a megalomaniacal alien who dreams of shedding his race's reputation for garbage collection in favor of conquering the Earth and proving his athletic dominance.
The writing sometimes comes off as a 10-year-old snickering to himself while filling out Mad Libs. But at times, Lastowka is funny enough to emerge as something of a creative mastermind.
A capable Audible cast, which includes Eliza Skinner, Janet Varney, Weird Al Yankovic and Mike Nelson, assembles for something close to a full-featured, extravagantly produced radio play. It's easy to imagine the play working as a stage musical. I could also see it becoming a really awful animated movie. The future of this franchise is as mercurial and unclear as that of Hawall itself.
Publisher provided review code.
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