Opposites attract -- and instantly repel -- in Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel's collaborative novel Lunatics, a story about two middle-aged New Jersey men who unintentionally find themselves embroiled in a series of surreal and, ultimately, internationally influential events. The result makes for a refreshing, funny read.
The co-authored story is told from dual points of view: Barry writes Jeffrey Peckerman, an angry, prejudiced, foul-mouthed forensic plumber; Zweibel writes Philip Horkman, a mild-mannered, easygoing pet shop owner. It's only natural that they would butt heads after Horkman, who referees in a children's soccer league, calls out Peckerman's daughter for being offside, inviting the latter man's ire.
In a series of bizarre events, the two men end up going on the lam after being accused of assorted crimes, including shooting a police officer and engaging in sexual acts at New York City's Central Park Zoo. Their escapades take them around the world. They end up on a nude cruise, help lead a successful revolution in Cuba that overthrows the Fidel Castro regime, feed starving Somalians, and cause terrorism networks around the world to halt operations.
A scene during the Cuba episode involves Peckerman -- who has digestive and urinary problems throughout the book -- getting diarrhea in a most inopportune moment, something that he notes never happens to the hero in an action film: You never see whatshisname, the guy in those Bourne movies, Matt Damon, when he and his co-star hot babe are fleeing through some foreign city and he's killing enemy agents with kung fu, speaking nine languages, hotwiring a car and driving like a stuntman, etc., you never hear him say to the babe, Geez, I'm sorry, but even though those enemy agents are, like, twenty yards behind us shooting at us, I need to make a pit stop, because if I don't get to a toilet right now I'm going to turn this car into a septic tank.
As the story progresses, some of the scenarios become too far-fetched to be plausible -- like when the characters end up at a political convention via Donald Trump and Peckerman accidentally urinates on Sarah Palin: I got grabbed by some guys who I think were Secret Service, and they hustled me off the stage with my arms behind my back, which meant the dignitaries were scrambling to get out of the way because I was still basically a human geyser.
Overall, Lunatics is a fun read worth its price and time. The humor can become a little too slapstick at times, but Barry and Zweibel, with their different characters and their unique writing styles, manage to bring on the fun without stepping on each other's toes. Each writer complements the other, as do their characters.
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