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The Four Fingers of Deathby Rick Moody
Synopses & Reviews
Montese Crandall is a downtrodden writer whose rare collection of baseball cards won't sustain him, financially or emotionally, through the grave illness of his wife. Luckily, he swindles himself a job churning out a novelization of the 2025 remake of a 1963 horror classic, The Crawling Hand. Crandall tells therein of the United States, in a bid to regain global eminence, launching at last its doomed manned mission to the desolation of Mars. Three space pods with nine Americans on board travel three months, expecting to spend three years as the planet's first colonists. When a secret mission to retrieve a flesh-eating bacterium for use in bio-warfare is uncovered, mayhem ensues.
Only a lonely human arm (missing its middle finger) returns to earth, crash-landing in the vast Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The arm may hold the secret to reanimation or it may simply be an infectious killing machine. In the ensuing days, it crawls through the heartbroken wasteland of a civilization at its breaking point, economically and culturally — a dystopia of lowlife, emigration from America, and laughable lifestyle alternatives.
The Four Fingers of Death is a stunningly inventive, sometimes hilarious, monumental novel. It will delight admirers of comic masterpieces like Slaughterhouse-Five, The Crying of Lot 49, and Catch-22.
"No amount of familiarity with Moody's body of work will prepare a reader for this distressingly impertinent exercise in bafflement. The plot originates in 2024 with Montese Crandall, a blocked writer whose list of woes includes a wife in a coma and an unsavory passion for baseball cards featuring bionically enhanced players, and whose major success is winning the right to author the novelization of the remake of the 1963 horror flick The Crawling Hand. The novelization, then, basically is the book. First, we have the space diaries of Col. Jed Richards, whose mission to Mars goes awry amid machete-wielding colonists, homoerotic encounters with fellow astronauts, and an insidious bacteria. Next, we're back on Earth, swept up in NASA's efforts to curtail the murderous swath of the mission's sole survivor: Colonel Richards's severed arm. All the while, Crandall clears his chest of everything from primate sexuality and megachurches to Mexican wrestlers. The comedy of catharsis ought to be whacked-out good fun. Instead, it is desperately and exceedingly annoying. To accuse Moody's book of inanity is like calling a B-movie's production values thrifty; the inanity is the point. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A rollicking romp through deep space and Arizona alike, improbable and thoroughly entertaining, courtesy of master storyteller Moody....A smart, fun satire — Jonathan Swift in space, with twists befitting Vincent Price." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Like Vonnegut, Moody packs his novel with weird New Age pseudo-cults, odd philosophies, bizarre science experiments and one-off characters who chatter at you for a dozen pages before getting strangled by a severed arm with four fingers." i09.com
"Conceptual wizardry and resonance are not reconciled with ease, nor do many writers attempt such a rapprochement, so it is here, in the intersection of narrative excess and genuine feeling, that Moody is at his most daring and arresting." BookForum
"Combines Kurt Vonnegut's masterly black humor with the apocalyptic scenery of B-movies and the postmodern playfulness of Neal Stephenson." Library Journal
Ideal for fans of such comic masterpieces as Slaughterhouse-Five, The Crying of Lot 49, and Catch-22, The Four Fingers of Death is a stunningly inventive, sometimes hilarious, monumental novel by the author of The Diviners.
About the Author
The Four Fingers of Death is Rick Moody's ninth book. He has received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, the Addison Metcalf Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Paris Review's Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, NY.
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