Thursday, April 2, 2009

Book Review: The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox

In 2041, the government, or what’s left of it, has banned all fatty foods, making a pound of real chocolate worth more than a kilo of cocaine on the black market. Groups of Good Humor Men, government-sanctioned vigilantes, patrol the country and destroy any illegal contraband foodstuffs they find. Meanwhile, shady nutraceutical company MannaSantos controls the market with genetically engineered foods, but people and animals are still wasting away from a mysterious, quick-spreading disease that is a result of a MannaSantos experiment gone horribly wrong.

Only Dr. Louis Shmalzberg, a fallen Good Humor Man and plastic surgeon, begins to uncover the evil behind MannasSantos and holds the key to humanity’s salvation – in the form of Elvis’ liposuctioned belly fat from a surgery his famous plastic surgeon father performed. Yet, Dr. Shmalzberg must travel across the country, getting entangled with an assassin who wants the Elvis fat for a foreign dignitary, a cult evangelizing anorexia, clones from MannasSantos, a voodoo queen, hit-men dressed as Elvi and a woman addicted to liposuction, to hunt down the preserved Elvis fat.

Will Dr. Shmalzberg track down the Elvis before he is captured, killed or before it becomes too late for humanity?

The Good Humor Man is an amazing novel that tackles serious issues like obesity, nutrition, genetically engineered food, the agricultural business, body image and many, many other important topics in a very entertaining, darkly humorous way. In the tradition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, The Good Humor Man makes us question just where we are headed as a nation and what we can do to prevent author Andrew Fox’s vision.

We all know that America as a country is F-A-T. We are one of the most obese countries in the world and in September 2008, the World Health Organization named the United States as #9 in a list of the most obese countries, with 74.1% of adults, or 237 million Americans, being overweight. So, what if all fatty foods were outlawed in the U.S.? What if a huge agribusiness like MannasSantos took over and made genetically engineered foods like “Leanie Lean” meats for the masses? Sure, the nation’s overall health would probably improve and people would lose weight, but at what cost? What if some genetically engineered experiment went awry and millions of people and animals began to waste away? This is the kind of catastrophe Dr. Shmalzberg must deal with in The Good Humor Man, but the threat of this happening in real life is definitely a possibility. Which is why the book is so engrossing and entertaining. It may be fiction, but author Andrew Fox weaves enough facts and “what if’s” about the possibility of this really happening to the U.S. to completely capture the reader’s attention.

Fox also captures the reader’s attention by giving them a wild ride with The Good Humor Man. Though he puts Dr. Shmalzberg into impossible after impossible scenario, you can’t help but keep reading to see just how he’ll get out of his next scrape! Fox deftly writes the character of Shmalzberg, along with the multitude of other colorful characters, so that they are all believable.

The book is also extremely fast-paced, though it took me a few chapters to really get into it. As soon as Shmalzberg hits the road in search of the Elvis, though, I was hooked. Shmalzberg deals with so many different characters, settings and predicaments on his journey that at times I felt too much was crammed into the book, but Fox somehow makes it work and continues to entertain the whole way through.

My only complaint was towards the end when the book did begin to drag, weighted down by too many old characters that decided to pop up for one last showdown with Shmalzberg. I felt that the ending was drawn out and could have been pared down for a smoother ending.

Other than that minor issue, The Good Humor Man is a very satisfying read that gives you plenty of food for thought!

Available from Amazon!

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