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In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose
on 27 July 2011
"In the Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose" reminds me of William Goldman's classic "The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure." This comparison might seem tenuous, especially for anyone only familiar with the movie. Both contain portions of an imaginary book interspersed with contemporary tales from the narrator. Each has a story that is larger-than-life, at least in the eyes of the narrator when imagining the main character of the make-believe book. Last, both have a sense of humor. Newsweek described "The Princess Bride" as "nutball funny." The same goes for "Harrison Dextrose."
Taken too far, my comparison falls apart. "The Princess Bride" is fantasy. "Harrison Dextrose" isn't, although it does largely happen in countries and among cultures that don't actually exist. Maybe it could be called fanciful instead. Although Harrison Dextrose's original trip was purported to have happened in the 1970s and Alexander's ten years later, both feel as though they are happening much earlier and satirize accounts of explorers from long ago.
The humor is sometimes subtle; what would you make of a boat named the "Unsmoked Haddock" or someone who counted the bullets from a machine gun? There are sly pop cultural references- for example, a dwarf who expects Alexander to know the next line in a quote from The Blues Brothers movie or describing a ship as "held together by barnacles; if they joined a barnacle cult and committed mass suicide, we'd be left clinging to planks."
Overall, I found In the "Footsteps of Harrison Dextrose" a fun and entertaining read. The mix of action-adventure and "nutball" humor might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **