Sunday, January 17, 2016

Secondhand Souls - Christopher Moore

   2015; 336 pages.  Full Title : Secondhand Souls – A Novel.  Sequel to A Dirty Job (2006).   New Author? : No.  Genre : Contemporary Fiction; Dark Humor.  Overall Rating : 8½*/10.

    Charlie Asher misses his seven-year-old daughter, Sophie.  That’s understandable, since Charlie’s dead.  But he’s not really gone; his soul – including his consciousness – has been transferred into a different body.

    Well, not a regular body.  Charlie Asher now stands knee-high, and has the head of a crocodile and the feet of a duck.  He wears a purple satin wizard’s robe under which is slung his ten-inch schlong.  So he’d just as soon avoid a face-to-face encounter with his daughter.

    But now that Sophie is greeting people on the telephone with “I am become Death, destroyer of worlds!”, and Charlie realizes there’s only one thing to do.  Well, two, actually.  Find someone who can transfer his soul into another body.  And then find someone who’s willing to let him have use of theirs.

What’s To Like...
    It took Christopher Moore nine years to pen the follow-up to his most excellent 2006 novel, A Dirty Job, but it was worth the wait.  Secondhand Souls catches you up on a lot of the characters from ADJ, both good and evil.  Rivera and Cavuto are back, so is the Emperor of San Francisco and his canine cohorts, Bummer and Lazarus.  Aunt Jane and Aunt Cassie are caring for Sophie while Charlie deals with his identity crisis, Minty Green is back, and even the nasty but laughable/likable Morrigan return.  But there are new characters as well – a guy who paints the Golden Gate bridge, several ghosts and meat puppets, and a banshee with a penchant for stun guns.

    As usual, Christopher Moore spins all sorts of threads at you (I counted six of them here), then steadily builds the literary tension before tying everything up neatly at the end.  There’s even a short “whatever happened to” epilogue.  Moore has lost none of his edginess, wit, and storytelling abilities.

    There’s a nice assortment of beasties to confront you, and a little bit of romance for the female readership.  One or two good guys die along the way; I like when that happens.  The pace is crisp, and there are a couple of plot twists along the way to keep you on your toes.  There are even some music references and some French thrown in; those are always a plus for me.  There is some cussing and adult situations; if you don’t know that about Christopher Moore’s writing, this is probably the first time you've read one of his books.

Kewlest New Word…
Doofuscocity (n.) : its meaning is obvious, and it’s a made-up word.  But I think it’s freakin’ great.

    “That’s why I called.  You help me find a body, then I help you fix whatever the banshee is warning us about.”
    “Like a corpse-type body?”
    “Not exactly.  Someone who is going to be a corpse, but before they become a corpse.”
    “Doesn’t that describe everybody?”  (loc. 590)

    The big V-8 rumbled and the four chrome ports down each side of the hood blinked as if startled out of a nap, then opened to draw more air into the infernal engine.  The tail of the Buick dipped and the grinning chrome mouth of the grille gulped desert air like a whale shark sucking down krill.  Far below the crusty strata, long-dead dinosaurs wept for the liquid remains of their brethren consumed by the creamy, jaundiced leviathan.  (loc. 1873)

Kindle Details...
    Secondhand Souls sells for  $9.99 at Amazon right now, which is about right for a new release by a top-tier author.  The rest of the Christopher Moore e-books are in the $9.99 and $11. 99 price range.

 “I commiserate.  I can go from zero to comiserable at the speed of dark.”  (loc. 443)
    Secondhand Souls is a standalone novel, but just barely.  You can forget a lot of details when there is a nine year gap between books in a series.  I read A Dirty Job six years ago  (the review is here), and I had only a hazy recollection of what went down in it.  Moore recognizes this, and works the backstory in in piecemeal fashion, but it felt clunky at times.

    To boot, once you get back up to speed in the series’ storyline, you realize there’s a lot of repeat here.  The foes are more-or-less the same : Morrigan and the Ultimate Evil against Charlie and Sophie; and the fate of the world once again hangs in a San Francisco setting.

    But these are minor quibbles.  This is still an enjoyable story, and maybe the long waiting time makes the repeated things seem fresh.  Also, there are those who might not mind a Bay Area rematch between the forces of Light and Darkness.

    8½ Stars.  With all the threads tied up so well, there is not a lot of room for a third book in the series.  But I would’ve said that after the first book as well.

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