A Dirty Job
The Denver Post said of Christopher Moore that he is “rapidly becoming the cult author of today, filling the post last held by Kurt Vonnegut.”*** I don’t believe that for a moment. Moore lacks the depth of Vonnegut in my opinion, and really no one could take his place, but A Dirty Job is, nonetheless, a highly entertaining book and a fun read. No, I wouldn’t compare him to Vonnegut, but this book is an odd combination of the works of Douglas Adams and the Showtime series Dead Like Me, both of which I greatly enjoy.
I really stumbled across Moore accidentally one morning while whiling away a few moments in a bookstore since our favorite breakfast spot was crowded with Sunday brunchers. With buzzer in hand we crossed the parking lot to the bookstore and I set about browsing the fiction section looking for a book that 1) I had never read, 2) was written by a man (it seemed to me that I had read a string of female authors and was in need of a break) and 3) was not a sappy love story. Those conditions seemed so hard to meet. Every book I picked up was either the product of a female author, was a tale of love or overcoming insurmountable odds in the face of love or both. Blech. A romantic I am, sappy I can’t handle. As I perused the shelf my eye was caught by a black cover with a picture of a skeleton baby in a pram pushed by half a body dressed in pin-stripped pants. Ok, I’ll bite. I picked it up to discover that the storyline was of a man who finds himself unwillingly promoted (?) to the position of a Grim Reaper, which he calls Death Merchants. Not original, to be sure, but it struck me as an interesting take on the premise of a show that I used to love to watch (which means it was, of course, canceled and taken off the air) called Dead Like Me. In Dead Like Me a young teenage girl, Georgia Lass, is killed by a deorbiting toilet seat from the Mir space Station and becomes a civil servant of death, a grim reaper. Great fun and great potential for laughs.
Christopher Moore took full advantage of that potential. While I would never call this novel a work of great literature, which incidentally is why I take issue with comparing him to Vonnegut, it is a highly enjoyable read. Moore’s writing has a certain flair and the man know how to make his audience laugh. In fact, I was so amused by this book that I felt the need to read sections of it out loud to CableDad on the airplane. As further testament to how funny Moore is, CableDad did not mind me reading sections of the book to him and actually asked me to mark certain pages so he could read them to his father. How’s that for a recommendation?
Charlie Asher is a Beta Male. The concept of Beta Male is something which Moore explores in some depth and with a great deal of finesse. If you can’t guess what a Beta Male is, consider the definition of an Alpha Male and then review your Greek alphabet. Charlie is by no means the “go out and get ‘em” kind of guy and when his wife Rachael dies mere hours after the birth of their daughter Charlie is lost. Luckily for him he is given a new purpose in life. Not only must he raise his baby girl, he must take on the role of Death Merchant and help poor lost souls find their intended bodies. All is well until the forces of darkness begin to rise signifying the coming of the BIG Death, with a capital ‘D’. The story involves two massive hellhounds, or Irish Hell Hounds as he tells people, a death merchant subculture, Buddhist soul transference and many small creature smade form various animal parts but collectively referred to as ‘squirrel people’.
As I said, great literature it is not, but it is a highly entertaining book and Moore is a fantastic comedic author, easily on the scale of Douglas Adams.
*** Pardon my lack of proper citations, but this was a comment in the back of the book in reference to one of his other works.
NEXT : The Life of Pi