Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Dirty Job - Christopher Moore

2006; 394 pages. Includes an "Are You A Beta Male" quiz in the Appendix, and a cool glow-in-the-dark book cover. Genre : Fiction; Humor. Overall Rating : 9½ */10.
"Congratulations, you have been chosen to act as Death. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. It is your duty to retrieve soul vessels from the dead and dying and see them to their next body. If you fail, Darkness will cover the world, and Chaos will reign." (pg. 110)
Thus does Charlie Asher, a Beta Male caring for his newborn daughter (Sophie), learn that he has been given a new job. And which isn't really a spoiler, since you can learn that much by reading the back-cover blurb.
What's To Like...
There's great humor throughout. Extra credit for making me laugh out loud in a number of places. It's nice to have a Beta Male hero. Even if they don't attract the beautiful girls, remember : "The world may be led by Alpha Males but it is is run by Betas." (pg. 394)
ADJ is almost a companion book of Moore's vampire books - You Suck and Bloodsucking Fiends. A number of characters from those make appearances here - The Emperor and his dogs, Lazarus and Bummer; the detectives Cavuto and Rivera; and the GF Abby. But there are plenty of new faces too - A tall, black guy in a dapper suit named Minty Fresh; a UE (or so he thinks) named Orcus; two bubble-bath loving hellhounds; and three hilarious harpy-like evilnesses called The Morrigan.
There are lots of twists. There is Romance for you female readers. There are great metaphors, like "...the great orange towers of the Golden Gate Bridge jutted through the fog like carrots from the faces of sleeping conjoined twin snowmen" or "... the mailman was wearing headphones and listening to something that was inspiring him to bob his head like a pigeon feeding on amphetamines..." (both on pg. 46).
And just to show you he's not limited to penning wacky humor, Moore inserts a moving interlude of seriousness into the story when Charlie's mother passes away.
Kewl New Words...
Ramekin : A fire-proof dish (or a cheese dish made with eggs and bread crumbs cooked in said dish, but here it refers to the vessel itself). Shiksa : Jewish, meaning a non-Jewish woman, and a derogatory term. Multifarious : Having many aspects or facets; richly varied.
We've given plenty already, but here's one more.
"Why isn't that kid in school?" Rivera asked.
"She's special," Charlie said. "You know, homeschooled."
"That's what makes her so cheerful?"
"She's studying the Existentialists this month. Asked for a study day last week to kill an Arab on the beach." (pg. 70)
Moore, if you please...
It's hard to think of any negatives. Spoofing Death may not be everyone's cup of tea. The "adult situations" may make some readers blanch. There are several cases of Deus Ex Machina. But who the heck cares? It's a fun read.
The story has a good ending, yet leaves the door plenty open for a sequel. I'll probably eventually read a Moore book that leaves me "meh", but it hasn't happened yet. So far, he's 3-for-3. We'll give A Dirty Job 9½ stars. If you like Pratchett and Fforde, you will likely find Christopher Moore appealing to the palate.


Amanda said...

I think Death and Baby Death might like this book.

Hamilcar Barca said...

i haven't got a good grip yet on your sense of humor, so i'm reluctant to make a prediction. what's your opinion of Monty Python's "In Search of the Holy Grail"?