Tom Robbins,
Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas
(Bantam, 1994)

Where were you when the stock market crashed? If you're Gwen Mati, a twenty-something Filipina broker for a small firm, you're in Seattle, mourning the worst day of your life and racking your brain for a way to cover your ass. As far as you're concerned, things can't get any worse.

But with Tom Robbins in charge, they can sure get weirder.

Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas takes a swipe at the rampart materialism of the U.S. economy in Robbins' trademark mix of mythology, humor and wicked social commentary. The result is a novel that is sure to keep you turning pages.

Just when Gwen believes her dreams of breaking through the upper crust into a world of green -- money, moolah, smackers, dinero -- the world economy dumps a fresh load of crap right on top of them. To make matters worse, her boyfriend's born-again monkey runs away, and her best friend, psychic Q-Jo Huffington, disappears.

Then there's Larry Diamond -- a former stockbroker just back from Timbuktu. Gwen can't decide whether he's the most disgusting lifeform on the face of the planet or the sexiest man she's ever met. Diamond seems intent on keeping it that way, although, truth be told, he's leaning toward the latter. Over the course of Easter weekend, Diamond pushes Gwen to look beyond the world of money and explore what else is out there.

Robbins again demonstrates his flair for creating ordinary people in extraordinary situations. In the case of Gwen Mati, Robbins' characterization remains consistent throughout the entire novel. She stays closed-minded and self-centered right up to the very end, only getting involved with Larry Diamond and his amphibious eccentricities because she thinks she can benefit from it. If she happens to help someone else out, well then, that just means bonus points for her. It is precisely this sure-handedness in characterization that helps keep the pacing moving at a steady clip throughout the novel.

Robbins shifts slightly from the style of his previous novels in that he uses a point of view which puts the reader directly in the heroine's head -- truly delightful when one considers just how prim and proper our heroine is. Robbins also has a knack for deftly weaving in explanations of arcane mythological beings, effortlessly acquainting the reader and his characters to the deities. Unlike other urban fantasists, however, Robbins doesn't dwell on he coexistence of these figures. Rather, he asserts that the influences of these figures still affect our world and our attitudes, even though they may be long gone.

The weird events of Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas almost convinces me that there truly is life on other planets. Tom Robbins' writing prowess leads me to believe that it's much more intelligent than us.

[ by Audrey M. Clark ]

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