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Monday, September 06, 2004

Nice Tail! (A half-assed review of Christopher Moore's Fluke)

It's always refreshing to find a book that manages to surprise you. I don't just mean that I like a book with a surprise ending. I mean I enjoy finding myself 100 pages in, flipping pages happily even though I am thinking to myself, "Man, not only do I not know where the story is going, I'm not even sure what genre this is."

I just finished reading Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, by Christopher Moore. As a novel, it's the genetic love child of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Heart of Darkness. But it has literary aunts and uncles, too. The Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy, Gulliver's Travels, and Gilgamesh are all related. (I'm seeing a picaresque trend here.) Sprinkle in a distant strain of your favorite creation mythology—the Old Testament will do nicely—and you'll know the novel's literary heritage. I also spotted minor connections to the movies Aliens and Planet of the Apes in the mix, for those of you who don't really do literary references. It's kewl, dood.

At first, I thought Fluke was a work of magical realism. It turned out to be a humorous treatment of a science fiction premise. Not spacecraft sci-fi or post-apocalyptic sci-fi, but present-day, earthbound sci-fi. This is your Kurt Vonnegut sci-fi, without the annoying Kilgore Trout meta-nonsense.

The book is about a team of whale researchers who are investigating humpback whales off the coast of Hawaii. One of them discovers something discordant and seemingly impossible; he photographs a whale with the phrase "Bite Me" written across its tail. Being a dedicated whale researcher, he must know more, more, more. Adventure ensues. A couple hundred pages later the world has been saved from an extinction level event...or has it? If you want a spoiler, go somewhere else.

I picked this book up from a paperback sale table at a local mega-chain bookstore. (Sorry, guys. No free advertising for you today.) I mainly wanted to get Life of Pi, which I did, but the sale allowed me to pick this book up for only a few dollars more. I've been feeling readerly lately, so I played a hunch and came up big. It was a fluke, you could say. (Sorry for the pun.) Meep. (That's whaley boy for "So sue me.")

I'd recommend Fluke to anybody who enjoys Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams. Moore is just as clever, and not nearly so smarmy as either of those guys. I might also recommend it to others, but I'd have to know more about their tastes. I certainly have to give Christopher Moore another shot, now that I've discovered him. Judging from the reviews I've read, it sounds like Lamb might be my best bet. It remains to be seen if this will trigger an author fetish for me, as I had for John Irving and Kurt Vonnegut many years ago. I liked this book well enough that it's certainly a possibility.

1 Comments:

Anonymous books man said...

yeah, this is nice book, I like it!

1:37 PM  

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