Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates

By Tom Robbins

26 ratings - 4.03* vote

"As clever and witty a novel as anyone has written in a long time . . . Robbins takes readers on a wild, delightful ride. . . . A delight from beginning to end."--Buffalo NewsSwitters is a contradiction for all seasons: an anarchist who works for the government; a pacifist who carries a gun; a vegetarian who sops up ham gravy; a cyberwhiz who hates computers; a man who, th "As clever and witty a novel as anyone has written in a long time . . . Robbins takes readers on a wild,

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Book details

Paperback, 445 pages
May 29th 2001 by Bantam

(first published September 5th 2000)

Original Title
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates
055337933X (ISBN13: 9780553379334)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Tim Darnell

This book is by no small margin my favorite novel of all time.

First off, Switters is the greatest single character to emerge from modern literature pure and simple. Not only is he hilarious and a great role model for any law enforcement employee, but his personal philosophies (not discounting his desire to plow his step-sister,) are intriguing and captivating. "Rather than eschewing his contradictory nature, as is typical Western practice, Switters embraces it. He's a CIA agent who hates the government. He's a pacifist who carries a gun. He's as much in love with a sixteen-year-old girl as he is with a forty-six-year-old nun. Switters feels that the core of the universe, the heart of existence, is light and dark existing together. One is not separate from the other, they just exist,"(-The Wikipedia Page for Feirce Invalids). He is totally bad-assed, and while a little difficult to like or identify with at first, he quickly and enthusiastically grows on you.

The story itself is fascinating, zany, off the wall, engaging, and at times nerve wracking. The philosophies presented within are engaging and thought provoking, and presented in an incredibly accessable (no, not dumbed down, but artistic...) and well thought out way. An exciting and provocative discourse on the nature of Duality, this book not only has a purpose behind every minute action therein, but disguises it in such a way that it goes unnoticed until a thorough debriefing is held between the kid in you (who likes Fierce Invalids for its comedic, world hopping spy thriller action with sexy ladies and awesome protagonists,) and the wannabe philosopher in you (who'll love it for its stylistic diction and damn near poetic prose, its dense symbolism, and its staggering humanistic study of dualism.)

I can't begin to do this book justice in this discription. Its a great book, and if you're not affraid to think while you read, you should check it out.

Leslie Gal

Some people love this shit and find it oh so witty and creative, but to me the perfect phrase to describe this book (and all Tom Robbins) is "verbal masturbation." If you value the simple beauty of good prose, you will feel dirty after ol Robbins spews gratuitous, barely cogent metaphors willy-nilly all over your literary face line after nauseating line. Robbins is clearly getting off on his own cleverness; it's just too bad he didn't stop to think about your needs.


Everytime I don't know what to buy people for Christmas or their birthday, I just get them a copy of this book. I give them two months and then ask what they thought of it. If they say they loved it, we continue to be friends. If they didn't like it, I challenge them to a gladiator-style death match. As you could surmise by the fact that I'm writing this right now, I've never lost a death match. That's how much I love this book.

Will C

Probably my favorite Tom Robbins novel, one of the few with a male protagonist (some of his books focus on female leads, and a few have couples, but the narration generally focuses on the woman). Switters, the nymphet-chasing secret agent and self described "acquired taste," finds himself confined to a wheelchair. A shaman's curse (the price of a psychedelic revelation) condemns him to death if his feet ever touch the ground. He starts the novel in love with his underage step sister, working for the CIA, and fully ambulatory. His adventures take him around the world and through theological intrigue, but the main feature of this book is really Switters as a character. The plot, although clever and fun to follow, is mostly a way of putting him in various situations where he can discourse on the meaning of life, language, and pleasure. A friend of mine who also loves this author told me that Switters seemed to her to be the Tom Robbin's character who is the most like Tom Robbins, and this seems intuitively true. For one thing, the content of Switters' monologues, both inner and outer, echo themes that resonate throughout his other novels, and seem in this novel to be gathered in one voice. Also, the form of Switters' speeches echoes the author's style of wording and imagery. The greatest joy of reading Tom Robbins is the way he plays with language as something oral, something that we hear with our ears and make with our mouths. He does things with writing that can only be done in writing, but he never lets the reader forget that language is something sensual, and he invokes the sounds of words, the music of sentences, and even descriptions that vividly sexualize the mechanics of a character (female or male, but usually female) actually pronouncing a certain word.
Except for Nabokov, who Robbins seems to be pretty obviously paying homage to (and perhaps lovingly mocking) with parallels and allusions to "Lolita," no other novelist I've read has captured the sensuality of language on this level. Languages, accents, and even speech impediments seem to be elevated to the highest objects of aesthetic appreciation in Robbins novels. Robbins can write a conversation, or a thought about a conversation, or even a thought about a word with as much guilty, indulgent enjoyment and libidinal gravity as anyone else can write a sex scene. An employee at an independent bookstore (Liftbridge books, Brockport NY, highly recommended) that Robbins is one of a few specific authors who they regularly argue over putting in "fiction" or "literature," and his work does have the same guilty-pleasure value of trashy novels, and always seems to end happily. Despite that, as someone who appreciates language as something that is at once abstract and intimately connected to us as bodies, I find great intellectual value in his work.


Top 5.Switters is my hero. An absurd and rollicking good time. If you enjoy philosophy, drugs, booze, sex and should be into this.


i've well acquainted with the pantheon of tom robbins (except for wild ducks flying backward- saving that for a rainy day), but i have to count myself among the many who consider this a favorite of the bunch. well written, fast, and full of shamanic/monastic greatness. i would even say a tour de force if that wasn't the shittiest, most hackneyed phrase in book reviewdom.


Likely my favorite book of all time. Former CIA agent Switters treks through the Amazon searching for shaman named "The End of Time/ Today IS Tomorrow," accompanied only by his parrot who lives by the motto "Peeple of zee wurl, relax!" I spit every time I hear the name "John Foster Dulles." Ingenious.


I am embarassed to admit that this is the first thing I have read by Robbins! Of course, I heard of him long ago, and saw the movie version of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (which may have turned me off), but why has it taken me so long to sit down and spend some time with him? I plan to correct that error. Robbins is one heckofa writer! His stuff is loony, thought-provoking, hysterically funny, highly creative, lively, impertinent, stylized - I could go on for a while here - all at the same time. Whatever you want to call it, it is not subtle or stupid or dull. This is one of the most enjoyable and entertaining novels I have ever read. (I listened to an audiobook of this, btw, very well performed by Keith Szarabajka).

Robbins's genius is that he borrows techniques from poetry and literary fiction and employs them in his goofy, satirical stories. There are soaring similes and brilliant descriptions aplenty here, but they are applied to everyday or wacky situations. This is not everyday humor though. Included are elements of mysticism, social and political comedy, sex and romance, and international intrigue.

The zany, picaresque story follows a character named Switters, a CIA agent who lusts after stepsister and spends time with his grand dame grandma, a lady known as Maestra. He is sent to rural Peru on some mission or other, where a native shaman with a pyramid-shaped head (due to some old head shaping techniques used on infants) places a curse on him - his feet can never touch the ground again or he will immediately die. So he spends the rest of the novel, first in a wheelchair, and eventually on a pair of stilts. After getting discharged from the CIA (portrayed here as a network of rogues with no particular political goals), he ends up trying to fulfill his infatuation with his teenaged stepsister. (Don't worry, none of this is meant to be taken seriously). From there he is on his way to Iraq and Syria to engage in some sort of espionage, and ends up under the protection of a small convent of radical Christian nuns, who are sitting on a secret prophecy that the Catholic Church is trying to suppress.

The framework provides an excuse for Switters to deal with a bunch of kooky characters (like his CIA buddy Bobby, a macho Texas good ol' boy, and Domino, the abbess of the convent), and for him to get trashed and throw around zingers and cockeyed comments. It is all in good fun, but Robbins can surprise by throwing in the occasional serious observation or thoughtful aside, such as critical comments on consumer culture. His discussion of the Hermetic tradition got me researching it online - there is nothing like a little wisdom mixed in with some fun. To use the cliche, it was hard to put this one down - I wanted the laughs and clever writing to go on and on. It has been a while since I have fallen this hard for a writer, but this book hit the sweet spot for me.


Sometimes you find a book at the wrong time in your life, and you think how much you would have liked it if you had read it 10 years ago. This is one of those books for me.

I kept reading anyways, probably because there are enough funny/interesting parts to propel you through the annoying parts.

Someone recommended it to me when I was a college freshman, but I only recently got around to reading it. He told me something along the lines of "you're sex positive, so you would enjoy this sexy romp of a book." I don't remember exactly how he described it, but something like that. I probably would have like it back then as an eighteen year old, because it is raunchy and seemingly philosophical. I say seemingly, because if you let yourself be whipped around by Robbins' wordplay, it seems clever, but if you really pay attention, it's fairly routine sort of philosophizing. And a lot of trying waaaaay too hard to point out some truth or theory about humanity. WAAAAAY too hard. I kept thinking, "Um, is that it? Am I suposed to be in suspense?" Nope.

But really why this book is wrong for the 28 year old me is the disappointing extent to which women are discussed and portrayed. The unbelievably standard view of teenage virgins as the ultimate in sexiness is presented as a risky taboo in the book. Oh! The shocking desires of the main character! (/sarcasm) Is there any sexual desire LESS predictable??? I think not. Not to mention all the descriptions of sex scenes that are so not what get women all hot and bothered--even though he implies that aaaaall the women in the book want it, and they want it from Switters soooo bad. I don't know why so many guys think that girls love it when you twist and pinch our nipples, but we don't. Really. We don't. Stop that.

I'm pretty sure this book is who the author wishes he was--super clever CIA agent that all the girls are after, having crazy adventures and saying any random thing he thinks, all of which come out sounding clever and deep. Good for you, Robbins, I'm glad you have dreams.

Natalie Thomas

What to call my favorite scene... let's call it: in the bathroom on hands and knees eating salad. Probably the funniest laugh-out-loud scene I have ever read.