A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
|A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: Traditional fight of the good guys versus the evil sewer monsters, played out in San Francisco's mean streets, where nothing is ever quite what it seems. You really don't want to let your pets anywhere near that pretty little girl.... Occasionally violent, sexual, and always irreverent. Delightfully witty if that's the way your mind works...but you probably do need to have a certain sense of humour.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 448||Date: June 2007|
When the mere premise of a book is haunting your dreams before you're even far enough into it to start identifying with any of the characters... you have to worry. The author has clearly picked up on whatever specific fear lives in the deepest recess of your soul... assuming you have a soul.
Which is one of the questions raised by Christopher Moore's Dirty Job. Do we have a soul? Leastways - do all of us? If there are more people now alive than ever previously lived, and souls transmigrate from body to body... well... "do the math" as they would say in America.
That is only one of the philosophical questions that lurk beneath the layers of dark humour which make up the rest of the book.
Charlie Asher is quite definitely a Beta Male.
(A whole new philosophy there: The world is led by Alpha Males; but the machinery runs on the bearings of Beta Males... the guys with enough imagination to get out of the way of the dangerous pursuits indulged in by the Alphas... they might not get to be top dog, but when it comes to weight of numbers... let's just say they have a better survival rate.)
Charlie Asher is, however, a happy Beta. He has somehow managed to entrance a beautiful woman, married her and is now attending the birth of their beautiful first daughter. Well, he's in the building. Beta's can be tiresome sometimes, and he's been shooed from the delivery room on pain of death.
Pain of death, sadly, is what immediately follows. It would be bad enough: Rachel dying like that, suddenly, for an inexplicable reason... but who was the seven foot black man in the mint green silk suit at her bedside, and why did only Charlie see him, and what is so special about the CD he has stolen?
For Charlie Asher... life is about to get just a little bit weird. People start to die around him, but his second-hand store business is suddenly the first choice of millionaires with lots of stuff to leave. Meanwhile, there are unexplained shadows and ravens with no sense of dignity and strange voices emanating from the sewers. Odd items - ceramic frogs, CDs, fur coats, umbrellas - start to emit an eerie red glow.
It would seem that Charlie has been recruited into the ranks to the agents of Death.
Obviously, this wasn't a job he applied for, and he does try to talk his way out of it... but sometimes you have to do, what the world isn't going to give you any choice over.
So the stage is set for the age-old story of the forces of good struggling against the forces of evil. Although Charlie isn't entirely sure himself, we do kind of assume he is on the side of the Angels. He's a Beta after all. But he's mixing with some strange company... and that beautiful first daughter, well she's growing up to attract some strange adherents herself, not to mention a particularly spectacular lesson in learning to talk.
We can be sure that what's happening down in the sewers is definitely evil though, can't we? Yes. Although surprisingly, delightfully inept with it.
Back topside though there is another contingent... who seem to have sprung out of nowhere... although there is definitely something decidedly sewerish about their mismatched bodies.
Add to mix: a lesbian daughter with a taste for her brother's second-hand Armani suits, an ex-cop with a thing about Asian-wife websites, a disappointed Goth teenager, a current cop straight out of Miami Vice, the Chinese and Russian widows who assist with the babysitting, the aforementioned Mint man, and the hounds of hell, a few weapons of choice as advertised across the centuries, and you're all set for a Pratchett-style romp through a few of the lesser known myths and legends played out against the backdrop of San Francisco's meaner streets.
Is it laugh-out-loud funny? Truthfully, no. Only the one reference to a particular demon preferring his refreshment "decoffinated" did actually make me laugh. But the rest of the book had me smiling with delight the whole way through, and staying up too late to read 'just a bit more'.
It is vicious and violent and laden with inappropriate sex. And it wouldn't be the same book if it wasn't. One of those really visual capers that you can see the movie-makers itching to the get their hands on, and you hope they won't because they'll play it to the family audience. There are some seriously adult jokes in this book. It's not exactly crude... but subtlety turns her back now and again. And rightly so.
For the most part though. It is just silly.
Totally, wonderfully, sparklingly, wittily, silly.
There are actually some interesting philosophical points buried in amongst it and all of the human behaviour (and most of the non-human kind) is wince-makingly well-observed - but that's beside the point. It's just good, slightly sick, slightly down & dirty, totally irreverent fun.
Our thanks, as ever, to the wonderful people at Orbit for sending this book.
Terry Pratchett's Mort and Good Omens are in the exact same tradition. To which I should probably add that if you don't enjoy Pratchett, and I'm led to believe that there genuinely are such people, then you won't like this either.
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore is in the Top Ten Books For Your Father.
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