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Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates Paperback – May 29 2001

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (May 29 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 055337933X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553379334
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.4 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #121,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

The fierce invalid in Tom Robbins's seventh novel is a philosophical, hedonistic U.S. operative very loosely inspired by a friend of the author. "Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are enormously popular in the CIA," claims Switters. "Not with all the agents in the field, but with the good ones, the brightest and the best." Switters isn't really an invalid, but during his first mission (to set free his ornery grandma's parrot, Sailor, in the Amazon jungle), he gets zapped by a spell cast by a "misshapen shaman" of the Kandakandero tribe named End of Time. The shaman is reminiscent of Carlos Castaneda's giggly guru, but his head is pyramid-shaped. In return for a mind-bending trip into cosmic truth--"the Hallways of Always"--Switters must not let his foot touch the earth, or he'll die.

Not that a little death threat can slow him down. Switters simply hops into a wheelchair and rolls off to further footloose adventures, occasionally switching to stilts. For a Robbins hero, to be just a bit high, not earthbound, facilitates enlightenment. He bops from Peru to Seattle, where he's beguiled by the Art Girls of the Pike Place Market and his 16-year-old stepsister, and then off to Syria, where he falls in with a pack of renegade nuns bearing names like Mustang Sally and Domino Thirry. Will Switters see Domino tumble and solve the mystery of the Virgin Mary? Can the nuns convince the Pope to favor birth control--to "zonk the zygotic zillions and mitigate the multitudinous milt" and "wrest free from a woman's shoulders the boa of spermatozoa?" Can the author ever resist a shameless pun or a mutant metaphor?

The tangly plot is almost beside the point. Switters is a colorful undercover agent, and a Robbins novel is really a colorful undercover essay celebrating sex and innocence, drugs and a firm wariness of anything that tries to rewire the mind, and Broadway tunes, especially "Send in the Clowns." Some readers will be intensely offended by Switters's yen for youth and idiosyncratic views on vice. But fans will feel that extremism in the pursuit of serious fun is virtue incarnate. Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates is classic Tom Robbins: all smiles, similes, and subversion. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Fans of Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume; Still Life with Woodpecker) will be delighted to find that his first book in almost six years contains many of the elements they have come to expect from this imaginative author. Sex, sedition and similes abound in a tale of loves both indictable and divine. Unlike Robbins's previous work, however, the novel's story line, though typically eclectic, feels contrived. Switters, the protagonist, is an errand boy for the CIA, a secret lover of Broadway show tunes and a pedophile. On assignment in Peru (he has been ordered to verify the philosophical commitment of a new CIA recruit), Switters encounters a Kandakandero medicine man who gives him mind-altering drugs and wisdom, but in exchange inflicts a curse: if Switters's feet ever touch the ground, he will be struck dead instantly. So Switters spends the rest of the novel in a wheelchair, although this in no way slows him down. He returns to Seattle, chases after his 16-year-old stepsister and numerous art students, then embarks on a mission to Syria to sell gas masks to Kurds; there, he beds a nun who even so remains a virgin. In true Robbins style, the writing throughout is lush and sexy, containing a great deal of witty social and political commentary. But this time around, his story fails to catch hold until too far into the text. And although Robbins's signature prose is in effect here--he mentions, for example, "a pink wink of panty"--he leaves too many loose ends dangling. Agent, Phoebe Larmore. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bima on April 20 2007
Format: Paperback
Tom Robbins is the Grand Master of simile and metaphor, capable of incredible invention of unique characters exploring cosmic and comic themes in weird locales. His "Skinny Legs and All" is one of THE must-read books, and "Jitterbug Perfume" is also outstanding. Most of his earlier works richly reward the reader, with the exception of the pitiful toss-off "Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas".

Unfortunately, "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates" isn't quite up to the level of his greatest work. It will still stop you cold with an image, a rhythm, an insight or a laugh, but there's a sense that Robbins had a lot of potential paths he considered following, that he wandered a ways down several of them, and in the end, he decided none of them really led anywhere in particular, so he might as well end it fast. The result is that you're stimulated, inspired, intrigued, amused, and finally thoughtful, but ultimately a bit disappointed. It's like you gave Leonardo paint, canvas, and brushes, and he created the Mona Lisa, but gave her Alfred E. Newman's smile and walked away. It's a comical take with clear evidence of genius, but you feel like a masterpiece got missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 19 2003
Format: Paperback
I would say that I'm a big Tom Robbins fan.
And a huge part of my adoration of him comes from his amazing female charecters. So when I picked up this one and realized the main character was a guy, I was kind of dissapointment.
The dissapointment followed me throughout the entire book, which still has the tangly and outlandish plot of a classic Robbins, but I just couldn't fall in love with Switters and therefore didn't fall in love with this book either. Switters is no Sissy Hankshaw or Ellen Cherry.
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Format: Paperback
A poet, a philosopher, a polygon, there are many sides to author Tom Robbins. We see this in his earlier novels: In Another Roadside Attraction, he replaces paranoia and cynicism of Catholism, secret societies and conspiracy theories with humor and fun; in Skinny Legs and All, he spins a prosaic punchline around politics, religion, art and sex; in Jitterbug Perfume, we get a colorful allegory that travels over a period of a thousand years and traces the life of Pan, the god of nature, and a bottle of perfume that's the essence of the universe.

In Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, Robbins again does a remarkable job of pulling in the secrets of history, religion, and anthropology, adding myth, magic and metaphor to present-day events, without being a heavy-handed preacher. The characters aren't as colorfully absurd and outrageously zany as they were in his previous works, but you won't forget them nevertheless. And his zest for language and life is sure poetry; his message is as sinuous and sly as the line in the yin-yang symbol.

Fierce Invalids lays it out for you clearly, faithfully.
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By A Customer on July 23 2004
Format: Audio Cassette
With a typical tangled, tangy, tawdry, turgid, tenacious, and tantalizing Robbins plot (Oh, dear, should I have said "Robust, rowdy, randy, rambunctious, rollicking?"), the mayor of Far-Fetched Land (uh, that would be Robbins) does it once again. Whew. Now. For those who adored EVEN COWGIRLS, STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER, ETC., you will absolutely love FIERCE INVALIDS. Sorry, don't mean to scream at you. If you don't like a good Tom Robbins novel, please, call an ambulance-more than likely you're already dead. Still, that's no reason not to buy this book.
Wacky? You bet. Robbins has a knack for plots that will keep your head spinning, yet somehow, these things he comes up with are believable. Don't ask me how he does it. Please see (what some have termed a "synopsis") of this novel (the book description above is good) because I can't even begin to tell you what it's about. The only other authors who come even CLOSE to Robbins are Boyle (think his WATER MUSIC) and McCrae in his BARK OF THE DOGWOOD. Yes, Robbins is an original, but these three have something in common: great writing, weird-land plots, characters that you'll fall in love with, and a sense of timing that Jerry Seinfield would envy. I was so worried I'd be disappointed in INVALIDS (I had visions of an old-folks retirement home), but I have to say that this is one of the most stellar, startling, strange, strung-out, and sensational reads I've come across in years.
Also recommended: EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES and ANOTHER ROADSIDE ATTRACTION. I'll stop yelling now.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Having gotten the book as an audio cassette it is only proper to critique Keith Szarabajka, the reader. He did a truly excellent job of narrating the story and providing the voices for all the characters.
The story in the book is a bit contrived even though Robbins fits all the pieces together. By the time I reached the fourth part I was no longer particularly interested in Switters' taboo. I was also annoyed that a South American tribe is depicted as being devoid of a sense of humor, not knowing what laughter is. No such tribes exist. Laughter is universal. This is not just nitpicking because this matter of laughter is a major element in the book. Still the writing is first rate and I found Switters an interesting character even if he does come across at times as an overgrown adolescent.
Since Switters is supposedly modeled after a friend of Robbins, several weeks after finishing the book what I find msyelf wondering about is how accurately Robbins depicts the CIA. Are there really "angels" like Switters and Bobby Cox, people driven more by idealism than by national intetests? At one time I would have considered such a possibilty to be preposeterous. Yet the current news is full of an apparent conflict between the White House and CIA. CIA agent Joe Wilson was sent to Niger to uncover information about uranium being sent to Iraq. When Wilson publicly announced that he did not find any evidence of such a connection someone in the White House retaliated by blowing the cover of Wilson's wife, also a CIA agent. Kind of makes you wonder.
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