I’m not sure how this became a National Bestseller. I went to a writing conference a long time ago where there was this battle between publishers and writers. Publishers were encouraging us to write more dialogue and speed up the action whereas writers were encouraging us to slow it down. Obviously, if you’re a publisher, you want people to read more books, hence you want fast books, and if you’re a writer, you want people to linger on your books longer before moving on to another author. This book is filled with dialogue but it doesn’t make it go faster. It’s actually disengaging. I can’t get inside anyone’s heads. It’s like just watching a bad TV series, and it’s really shallow and boring. I only read and skimmed the first 100 pages. If I can’t get through 100 pages, I give up.
The novel follows some whale researcher with some stoner blonde brudah-wannabe and some hot female research assistant. Their lab was destroyed which allows for a slim hope of some tension or suspense. The first 100 pages just follows them out on the boat doing research. It’s about as boring as you might imagine. The great thing about Hawaii and being out on the ocean is the sensory impact, so reading about it is like reading about someone telling you how wonderful a meal was.
I’ve had the fortune of visiting Hawaii three times, Oahu three times and Kauai twice. While parts of Hawaii are paradise, you have to be mindful of the underlying tension and issues for natives both Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian. Many Hawaiians are resentful toward non-Hawaiians for a number of reasons. Their island was conquered. The vast majority of Hawaiians have a much lower income than non-Hawaiians. A large number of jobs are in the tourism industry where they have to serve non-Hawaiians who are usually wealthier and more entitled than they are. There’s a big sense of jealousy. They are also racist. Not only do many dislike whites, but they also dislike Asians and blacks as well. Of course, there are also many Hawaiian who are not racist or resentful, and many who do very well. But just keep in mind, this is not a happy little island full of people who think they live in paradise. There is also a big meth problem which you might find odd given the laid back lifestyle of Hawaii. You’d think pot would be the preferred drug of choice, but then again, for some people, drugs offer the opposite of how you feel or what your temperament is. I’m pretty laid back, and pot doesn’t appeal to me whereas stimulants do. Poverty also impacts all culture regardless of race or nationality. Poor people suffer continued frustration and envy. At work, they are often mistreated and poorly supervised. They are often treated as disposable commodities. Many then take their workplace culture home with them and poorly supervise their own kids, mistreating them and abusing or neglecting them. Violence is not endemic of any race or nationality but poverty. Continued frustration and lack of resources to get through life result in violent, aggressive outbursts both male and female. The poor are also closely monitored by law enforcement and hence have continual encounters resulting in fines (exacerbating poverty) or incarceration where there is even worse supervision and violence. At the same time, things are not as bad in Hawaii as say South Africa or even China. When I visited Cape Town, I had never been to a non-First World country. While parts of South Africa are firmly First World, it’s an oddity in that the vast majority of people live in Third World conditions. My visits to their townships (euphemisms for ghettos) was shocking. First, it’s both somewhat of a tourism zoo in that many tourists don’t identify with the people on the other side and just want the experience of seeing squalor. But for me and many others, it was a good wake up call. We have it good. Even if you’re poor in America, you have it good. The American middle class (and working class before 2008), were the aristocrats of the world. People in townships often live in shacks with no heating or internal plumbing. What surprised me was how happy the kids seemed. Obviously, they knew no better, and at the very least, they had the friendship of others and support of extended families compared to First World kids who are alienated and unhappy. It is only when the kids become teenagers and learn about their history and the fact that there are richer people in the world do they become jaded and hide from the tourists. They also start to realize they need to make money and also realize that there are few opportunities and very low pay.
When I visited Kauai, I was exposed to rural, poor Hawaiians, and just like rural, poor whites in America, they were much less welcome of visitors and outsiders. I was fortunate enough to be part of a non-profit that had a Hawaiian chapter that gave us the royal treatment, but when me and a couple of my mainland visitors went off on our own to a local bar, we didn’t exactly get the royal treatment. I’m not much of a nature guy, so for me, Waikiki was my paradise. I was there first in 1992, and then I returned in 2006 and 2011. It seems like the nightlife died between 1992 and 2006 in Waikiki. I can remember loads of bars and clubs, but now it seems much more sparse. There are also more shops now, and it seems that Waikiki is catering to a more high-end clientele that doesn’t like the bar and club scene and may get intimidated by late night drunk revelers. As many Japanese tourists visit Waikiki, I hardly ever saw a Japanese person at a bar or club. They also seem to have cleaned up the hooker scene too. Back in 1992 and to a lesser degree in 2006, hookers were so brazen, they would just walk up to you, put their arms around your arm and proposition you. I was constantly propositioned in 92 but only a couple times in 06 and never in 11. I’m sure escorts are still allowed just like in Vegas. In 92 I remember opening up the phone book to a huge escort section.
Now that I think about Hawaii more and reminisce, I’ll probably look for a novel about Waikiki next. This one just sucked though. Besides the white kid who acts like a native brudah, there wasn’t much coverage of Hawaiian culture or food or anything. The book may have been set off the coast of Massachusetts or Alaska.