(Jump to read a review of A Dirty Job)
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"The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror"
(Reviewed by Mary Whipple DEC 19, 2004)
"If you think anyone is sane, you just don't know enough about them. The key—and this is very relevant—is to find someone whose insanity dovetails with your own."
Whenever you read something by Christopher Moore, you enter a whole new world. In the case of The Stupidest Angel, the world you enter is familiar if you have read Moore's previous books, since Moore is reprising many of the most popular characters from his previous novels in this Christmas-inspired satire of life in Pine Cove, a California coastal community, filled with "holiday quaintage" and "festive doom." Lena Marquez, divorced from Dale Pearson, an unmitigated boor, first appeared in The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, and becomes the subject of the major plot here when she inadvertently "kills" Dale, who is dressed as Santa. The local constable, Theophilus Crowe, who is married to Molly Michon, formerly a porn star known as Kendra, Warrior Babe of the Outland, also appeared in Lust Lizard…, and Tucker Case, who comes on the scene and falls madly in lust with Lena, was the main character in Island of the Sequined Love Nun. His sunglass-clad fruit bat, Roberto, also appears plays a role.
Lena's fight with Dale is witnessed by young Josh Barker, age seven, who is distraught at the thought that "someone killed Santa." Soon Josh is visited by the Archangel Raziel, who appeared in Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, a klutzy angel whose mission it is to "Go to Earth, find a child who has made a Christmas wish that can only be granted by divine intervention," and do something for him. Josh wants Santa to come back to life.
As always, Moore's off-the-wall imagination takes over, and the investigation of Dale Pearson's disappearance becomes complicated. Tucker Case is working as a DEA helicopter pilot, and, from the air, he sees the very large marijuana patch belonging to someone who would find it a professional embarrassment. The "prints" of Roberto, the fruit bat, have been found inside the truck of the missing Dale, and Molly, Theo's wife, has gone off her meds for her psychotic problems. She is trying to save up for a hand-made bong for Theo for Christmas, and her conversations with "The Narrator," show the level of her psychosis.
As the holiday comes closer, Raziel starts to work his bizarre magic and bring about his Christmas "miracle." The world becomes crazier by the minute, as Moore declares, "Life is messy. Would that every puzzle piece fell into place every word was kind, every accident happy, but such is not the case. Life is messy. People, generally, suck." As the reader becomes more and more involved in the zany happenings at Pine Cove, the ironies of the Christmas message and the violence in town are seen in sharp relief, and the question of whether there are any heroes in this novel and whether Raziel is truly an archangel come to the fore.
A no-holds-barred, let-it-all-hang-out free-for-all which gives a whole new meaning to "the willing suspension of disbelief," this novel is a great gift for the zanies on your Christmas list. The young at heart will not bat an eyelash at its profanity, its vulgar hilarity, and its unexpected satiric twists and turns. You may want to think twice, however, about getting it for your staid and proper Aunt Martha.
- Amazon readers rating: from 191 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Stupidest Angel at the author's website(back to top)
"Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings"
(Reviewed by Mary Whipple JUN 18, 2003)
"The whale fluked, raising its tail high in the air, and there, instead of the distinct pattern, black-and-white markings by which all humpbacks were identified, there were, spelled out in foot-high black letters across the white-the words BITE ME!"
Christopher Moore's brand of humor, while always irreverent and sometimes off-color, also bursts through any constraints which might limit it to the real world. Fanciful and imaginative, he has often used his wit to explore other realities--the world of vampires in Bloodsucking Fiends, the spirit world of Native America in Coyote Blue, and in this novel, the underwater world of singing whales and the researchers who study them. The author himself has studied whales and current research projects into their behavior, and he is far more "straight" and less frivolous in his approach to the story here than in most of his earlier novels. There's a ring of truth to the activities of the researchers who are the main characters.
Nate Quinn is a Ph.D. researcher studying the subsonic songs of humpback whales. With his crew of three, he works the channel between the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Lanai, identifying and following specific, individual whales, recording whale songs, and converting the songs into digitized computer programs in an effort to decode them. Amy Earheart is a young, new recruit who is attractive to all three of her male counterparts and has a mysterious past; Clay Demodicus is an underwater photographer, who has studied and filmed whales for many years; and Pelekekona is a blond surfer-dude, whose speech combines Rasta jive talk with Hawaiian pidgin, and whose real name is Preston Applebaum, from New Jersey. These and other wacky characters allow Moore plenty of room for hijinx at the same time that he is exploring serious issues. The Hawaiian legend of Maui, the island's history of whaling and ethnography, and an insight into the many competing whale research projects add color and immediacy to the story as it develops, while offering a broad perspective on the whales and their significance in the Hawaiian islands.
All the researchers are suspicious of a navy captain, who will reveal no information about his activities, and rumors surface that the navy may be building a torpedo testing range inside the whale sanctuary. For unknown reasons, Nate's tapes of whale songs, going back many years, are suddenly pulled from their cassettes and strewn around their ransacked office, and the project's boat is sunk. When Clay is struck unconscious by a whale and sinks 150 feet below the surface, to be miraculously rescued by Amy, who herself soon disappears while kayaking, and when Nate also disappears while investigating a particularly large whale, it is clear that their research project is a matter of life and death importance for someone--or something.
Soon science becomes science fiction, as an entire world, populated by 5000 people, is discovered to exist 600 feet below the surface of the ocean. It becomes difficult for the scientists (and the reader) to separate the natural whales in the channel from specially adapted, living whale submarines, and the line between reality and fantasy disappears. The reader willingly suspends all disbelief and falls under the spell of Moore's non-stop flights of imagination, with his descriptions of the undersea living accommodations, the roles of the "whaley-boys," the difference between genes and memes, and the importance of the goo, which is almost god-like in its power. We come to understand that the goo is now striking back, trying to regain the power it lost when the ecostructure was altered and the first killings of the whales began in the islands.
Moore's famous sense of the absurd shines here, as we meet an old woman who says a whale called her on the phone wanting a hot pastrami on rye with mustard, a researcher who can remain underwater for sixty minutes without breathing, an absolute ruler who wants the navy to "nuke the goo," and the beeping whaley boys, who have the same navigational sense as whales but who look like aliens and can walk on land. Moore's sense of irony and his humor, some of it black, never flag, and his imagination, given free rein, soars in this wild fantasy.
However playful it may be, this novel also marks a significant new direction for Moore. He is clearly fascinated by whales and the threats to their existence, and while the book is loads of fun to read and often very funny, it also has something serious and important at its heart--it is not simply frivolous entertainment. In an unprecedented move, Moore adds three separate Author's Notes in the final pages of the novel--first, an updating of the current status of research in cetacean biology and behavior; second, the existing threats to the whales' survival, both from Japanese and Norwegian whaling and from habitat loss and pollution; and third, an extensive list of acknowledgements of some of the world's great whale researchers and research facilities, including an address to which readers can send donations if they are so inclined. Readers of this one will come away from the experience with broad smiles on their faces, new appreciation for Moore's talents, admiration for the risks he took when he veered off in a more serious new direction, and, most significantly, new understandings of whales and the ecosystem in which they flourish.
- Amazon readers rating: from 130 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Fluke at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Practical Demonkeeping: A Comedy of Horrors (1992)
- Coyote Blue (1994)
- Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story (1995)
- Island of the Sequined Love Nun (1997)
- The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove (1999)
- Trench Fever (May 2000)
- Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (2002)
- Fluke: Or I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings (2002)
- The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror (2004)
- A Dirty Job (2006)
- You Suck: A Love Story (2007)
- Fool (2009)
- Bite Me (2010)
- Sacre Bleu (2012)
- The Serpent of Venice (April 2014)
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- Visit the Official Christopher Moore web site
- Reading Group Guide for Coyote Blue
- MostlyFiction.com review of Fluke
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Stupidest Angel
- MostlyFiction.com review of Dirty Job
- MostlyFiction.com review of Fool
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About the Author:
Christopher Moore grew up in Mansfield, Ohio and went to Ohio State for a bit and studied Anthropology. Then, he moved to California and studied photography at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, and took a bunch of extension courses in writing. He has held many jobs including journalist, radio deejay, waiter, roofer, a factory work making ceramic nativity scenes, a photographer, motel clerk and insurance broker. When he turned 30 and realized that he wasn't famous, he decided to write a book. His first book was published when he was 32 and was very successful so he wrote more.
He lives in Cambria, California.