Christopher Moore wrote this book because there was a death in his family. And it’s funny! I am relieved that he does not seem interested to write a book about the Holocaust.
Moore has a penchant to pick up a serious subject matter and make fun of it without dumbing down the importance of the said subject.
Even here, although the first chapter starts with a birth and ends with a death, it is the funniest chapter in the book.
Charlie Asher, the protagonist, is a normal guy, who plays it safe and does nothing flashy – in Moore’s words he is your typical beta male. He is a guy who as a single parent reads his kid daughter to sleep with Slaughterhouse Five and classified ads from the Chronicle (You just try that at home).
There are some typical Moore moments in this book which are bound to make you guffaw.Charlie felt a lump rising in his throat. No one had ever called him Daddy before, not even a puppet. (He had once asked Rachel, “Who’s your daddy?” during sex, to which she had replied, “Saul Goldstein,” thus rendering him impotent for a week and raising all kinds of issues that he didn’t really like to think about.)
But Charlie’s cocooned lifestyle is changed forever one day when he is selected to act as one of the soul collectors and distributors – a Death Merchant. Congratulations, you have been chosen to act as Death. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. It is your duty to retrieve soul vessels from the dead and dying and see them on to their next body. If you fail, Darkness will cover the world and Chaos will reign.
There are some forces of the Underworld (a trio of Celtic War Goddesses) that are after the souls too. They reside in the sewers of San Francisco waiting for Charlie to fail to collect a soul in allotted time. There is a timeline to collect a soul, not ever more than 49 days (sometimes the time allotted is as small as 1 day). Name and the timeline for collection of the soul object of the deceased (or soon to be deceased) appear automatically on Charlie’s daily planner.
There are many interesting (read weird) secondary characters in this book that would make sure that you don’t stop laughing.
A Goth teenager.
A sister who keeps stealing Charlie’s clothes.
Two immigrant nannies – one Russian and other Chinese whom Moore intentionally depicts as over-the-top stereotypes.
A retired cop who works for Charlie. They both think that the other is a serial killer.
Two hellhounds who eat everything from soaps to steel.
There is lot to love here but of course, there are some tiny drawbacks. The book seems 50 pages too long. It sure is funny, but not as good as Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, in my opinion. And while it may not affect most of us, this book may offend someone who is highly religious. Especially if you are a Muslim or a Christian. My advise – read this book for what it is – a work of fiction which is not meant to be taken seriously.
But really, how can someone get offended by a book that is choke-full of jocularity like this?She was so understanding, forgiving—and kind, you could just tell that by her eyes. He knew in his heart that he would even sit through a hat movie for this woman. He would watch A Room with a View AND The English Patient, back-to-back, just to share a pizza with her. And she would stop him from eating his service revolver halfway through the second movie, because that’s just how she was: compassionate.