Thursday, July 10, 2008
Review of A Dirty Job
At the recommendation of the lovely Ms. Maloria, I checked this Chris Moore novel out of the library recently, and I enjoyed it.
Moore's novels are very lighthearted, fun page-turners. Perfect summer reading. This one is also set in SF and features some of the same characters as You Suck, which I liked. It's about Charlie Asher, who is in the room with his wife as she dies, and he sees the man (Minty Fresh, a 7-foot tall man in a mint green suit who calls himself a "Death Merchant") come to collect the object that now houses her soul: In this case, a CD.
Charlie should not be able to see Minty, but he can, and after he does, odd things start happening--It turns out Charlie's been recruited to join the Death Merchants too (there was once a big "Death," but he's gone now, so there are multiple merchants in every city to do the work). He is responsible for retrieving "soul vessels" and selling them in his second-hand store to folks who don't have souls. I thought it was an interesting idea, that you could be an adult and yet still lack a soul, until the right one finds you or vice-versa.
Mixed in with Charlie bumbling around trying to learn the Death Merchant business is the story of him missing his dead wife and raising their daughter Sophie alone, with the help of his sister and his two neighbors. The book possibly focuses too much on Charlie being a "Beta Male" and what that means, but only by a little bit. Mostly it was funny (and very true). Sometimes, though, you got the impression that Moore just learned the term and was fascinated by it.
The novel contains the usual ridiculous plot twists and outrageous humor and snark, but this one felt a little different to me. As Charlie learns the biz, he learns a lot about death and dying, and human behavior. It added a lot of depth to the book. During the book Charlie's mom dies of cancer, and he and his sister have to go take care of her during her final days. Finally, at the end of the book Charlie also meets and quickly falls for a woman who studied with a Tibetan monk and can prolong life, or send a soul on its journey, or push a soul from one body into another. Of course, the woman also animates ridiculous creatures out of different animal parts and costumes them in Baroque outfits, but that's another issue. I was struck by how much research Moore had clearly done about death, dying, and death/funeral legends and practices of many cultures, but aside from that, I was struck by the heartfelt feeling of the book. Sure enough, at the end of the book there's a note that both he and his partner's moms had died recently.
Anyway, Charlie learns there's a prophecy that the forces of darkness will rise up in SF ("the city of two bridges") and that the newly risen big Death (titled the Luminatus) will battle them. Charlie starts to believe he is the Luminatus, but of course it's obvious that his daughter is. How, you ask? Well, number one: the cover. Number two: Sophie can kill people or animals by pointing at them and saying "kitty". Number three: A pair of hellhounds shows up out of nowhere to protect Sophie after one of the Morrigan attacks her.
So, of course the darkness (the Morrigan and their crew) rises, and Charlie goes off to fight them, and then Sophie, who's six years old by this point, has to come rescue him, and it's as satisfying an ending as you'd want for a potentially world-ending battle in the sewer system of San Francisco.
I loved all the crazy side characters almost as much as the main characters. They were ridiculous and quirky and awesome. I would totally recommend it, and I would definitely read Moore's other work, too.
Mr. T is reading You Suck right now and enjoying it. The couple that reads together...