Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

fearPublisher: Random House

Publication Year: 1971

Length: 204 pages

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the best chronicle of drug-soaked, addle-brained, rollicking good times ever committed to the printed page. It is also the tale of a long weekend road trip that has gone down in the annals of American pop culture as one of the strangest journeys ever undertaken.

Review (No Spoilers!!)

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I really didn’t know what to expect going into this book. It’s an older book, and not the typical thing I’d read, but I had a friend recommend it (and buy me the book) so I felt I had to read it just to see what it’s all about.

And to be honest…it was kind of a weird book?? It’s supposedly non-fiction, and about an experience Thompson himself had, but a lot of it seemed so far-fetched that I’m not sure I quite believe it all. I believe the basics of it happened, I’m just not sure about some of the really far-fetched details, like driving a car across the runway at the airport or how Thompson and his “attorney” (I’m convinced this man was not actually an attorney) almost tortured a maid. Then again, because Thompson and his attorney were on drugs for about 99% of the plot, maybe that’s how they remember things going down. Even if things didn’t happen exactly as the book describes, that might be how Thompson experienced it in his mind, which I suppose means it’s still non-fiction. It’s also classified as a prime example of Gonzo journalism, which means it’s going to lack some of the objectivity that’s usually associated with journalistic works.

If you’re still a bit confused reading this review right now, it’s probably because this book was a little confusing to read in general. Basically, the author, Hunter Thompson, is a journalist who’s supposedly assigned to cover a story in Las Vegas by whatever outlet he works for. He leaves California and heads to Vegas for a few days with a guy he calls his attorney (though, as stated, I’m pretty sure the guy was not an attorney), and the two of them pretty much proceed to take every drug under the sun and just start causing mayhem everywhere they go. Because the story is written from Thompson’s perspective, with a drug-adled mind, there are times when it can get a little hard to follow, but that didn’t deter me from the book too much.

All that being said, I still enjoyed the book. Sure it was confusing, and the writing style was a little different from what I’m used to in a typical book, but that just added to the charm of Fear and Loathing. In addition, the escapades of Thompson and his attorney were adventurous and exciting, so it kept me interested in the story the whole time. It was an interesting look at the drug culture of the 1970’s as well, so it was a good book from a historical/culture standpoint as well. There was supposedly a lot of commentary in it about the American Dream and capitalism and society, but I think I missed a lot of that, so it’s a book I may have to reread someday, just to see if it makes more sense.

There’s also a fantastic movie starring Johnny Depp (except he doesn’t look like Johnny Depp at all in the film) based on this book, and while I’m not here to review the movie, I will say, for a movie adaptation of a book, it was pretty great. I’m glad I read the book first, but the movie was a nice addition to it and helped capture some of the scenes where you see things through Thompson’s drug-laden eyes, and the vividness of seeing that on screen just added to what I pictured as I read the book.

Overall, while it’s not a typical thing I’d read, it was short and enjoyable, so I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a quick non-fiction/historical read that’s a little bit different from what you’re used to in that genre, I’d give it a try.

Rating: 3 Stars

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Have you ever read Fear and Loathing? Or seen the movie? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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