Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
|Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore|
|Reviewer: Lesley Mason|
|Summary: In the waters off Hawaii a small band of dedicated researchers are fighting the big money, the military, the weather and whoever is trying to sabotage their operation. On their side a beautiful researcher a pseudo-Hawaiian surfer boy, who thinks he's a rasta...except when he's REALLY thinking...and the Old Broad who gets telephone calls from the whale. Silly, constantly wryly amusing, but with a serious point.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: September 2007|
Nathan Quinn wants to know why the humpback whales sing. So every season when they come to mate in the waters around Hawaii there he'll be with his longstanding friend and underwater photographer, Clay Demodocus, out on their research vessels collecting the data, trying to make the connections.
This season they have the delightful, if unknown, research assistant Amy. And as newcomer all-round helper: a surfer/stoner/rasta-pseudo-Hawaiian type going by the name of Kona - which is at least easier to say than Pelekekona Keohoklole. If not quite as accurate as Preston Applebaum (from New Jersey).
Silly names and rasta-jokes aside, I was beginning to wonder about Fluke. It starts off way too normal for what I've come to love about Christopher Moore. Nothing you could call 'weak' in real terms. The setting is cool, the chicks are hot, and the story is moving along nicely with a couple of eccentrics ("The Broad" who is funding the whole research operation from her house on the hill, and insists that the whales talk to her, for instance... and "The Count", a strange pale guy doing numbers surveys but looking like a refugee from a Hammer film). The military are lurking in the wings as you'd expect.
But it is just moving along like your average environmentally-sound bad-guys-against-the-whale-savers type thriller. The lab gets trashed, one of the boats gets sunk. There's an odd photo or two. The photographer gets whopped on the head.
You know. Run of the mill.
Smiles along the way as ever: boats called the "Always Confused" and the "Constantly Baffled" for instance... or the official scientific response to what happens if you set off a ten-thousand pound charge in proximity to a sea lion colony... (not funny for the sea lions, obviously).
Kona's rasta-speak pidgin would be annoying, were it not for the fact that its so intentionally annoying and characters react accordingly.
But the story moves.
Not bad for a detective page-turner. And good solid enviro-creds. [We know from the preface, that Moore has done the research.]
But... still... I was thinking... hang on... it's not quite...
Of course, if I judged a book by its cover, I'd have looked at the cover more closely and seen not only the "Bite Me" message... but also the one saying "Can someone bring me a sandwich... "
And I'd have known to be patient.
Mild amusement elevates itself into traditional Moore-ish daftness in part two... when Nate is 'lost at sea' to use the technical expression. From there on out... sheer brilliance. There are ships that might be animals. A god that might just be another creature. And then there's "the Colonel" - 5% Captain Nemo, 5% Colonel Kurtz, perhaps still 10% marine biologist... and 80% Wizard of Oz.
It would also seem that we're at war. Remember all that stuff you sort of half-understood about the selfish gene? And something else called a meme?
No. Me neither, not in enough detail to predict where Moore was going with this.
And that's the amazing thing, he is actually going somewhere. He has a point to make (don't kill the whales!) but also possibilities to raise as to why it's a bad idea... (you'll have to work them out, I can't explain, but it sort of makes sense at the time! )
The main point is... he carries the plot out of believability, through plausibility, right into Douglas Adams territory. Unlike Adams, however, he continues to use the research. Even in the most absurd situations he continues to weave in just enough real science to make you wonder... what if...
I should warn you. I'm a newcomer to Moore - and I'm addicted! As with all good fantasy writers, he uses absurdity to make you focus on reality. Not merely to show you how absurd reality is, however, but with actual specific moral points to be underscored. In other works he questions our notions of the soul, and of religion; here he asks us to consider what we're doing to the planet. "The Whale" - i.e. the whole raft of species we lump under that heading - have long been the poster-boys of campaigns to try to get us to wake up, so it's a good subject to take. Add on the fact that the marine environment is the one we're still trashing with utter disregard, it's a timely piece.
I've expressed many pointers to what makes a good fantasy novel... but surely one of them must be that you have good solid down-to-earth reasons for wishing it could be true!
Not absolute top-drawer Moore, because it did take a while to reel me in... but he's streets beyond anyone else writing this genre at the moment.
Suspend disbelief, pull on your flippers and head out for some cool runnings!
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You can read more book reviews or buy Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore at Amazon.com.
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