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A Dirty Jobby Christopher Moore
Synopses & Reviews
Charlie Asher is a pretty normal guy. A little hapless, somewhat neurotic, sort of a hypochondriac. He's what's known as a Beta Male: the kind of fellow who makes his way through life by being careful and constant — you know, the one who's always there to pick up the pieces when the girl gets dumped by the bigger/taller/stronger Alpha Male.
But Charlie's been lucky. He owns a building in the heart of San Francisco, and runs a secondhand store with the help of a couple of loyal, if marginally insane, employees. He's married to a bright and pretty woman who actually loves him for his normalcy. And she, Rachel, is about to have their first child.
Yes, Charlie's doing okay for a Beta. That is, until the day his daughter, Sophie, is born. Just as Charlie — exhausted from the birth — turns to go home, he sees a strange man in mint-green golf wear at Rachel's hospital bedside, a man who claims that no one should be able to see him. But see him Charlie does, and from here on out, things get really weird.
People start dropping dead around him, giant ravens perch on his building, and it seems that everywhere he goes, a dark presence whispers to him from under the streets. Strange names start appearing on his nightstand notepad, and before he knows it, those people end up dead, too. Yup, it seems that Charlie Asher has been recruited for a new job, an unpleasant but utterly necessary one: Death. It's a dirty job. But hey, somebody's gotta do it.
Christopher Moore, the man whose Lamb served up Jesus' "missing years" (with the funny parts left in), and whose Fluke found the deep humor in whale researchers' lives, now shines his comic light on the undiscovered country we all eventually explore — death and dying — and the results are hilarious, heartwarming, and a hell of a lot of fun.
"Cult-hero Moore (The Stupidest Angel) tackles death — make that Death — in his latest wonderful, whacked-out yarn. For beta male Charlie Asher, proprietor of a shop in San Francisco, life and death meet in a maternity ward recovery room where his wife, Rachel, dies shortly after giving birth. Though security cameras catch nothing, Charlie swears he saw an impossibly tall black man in a mint green suit standing beside Rachel as she died. When objects in his store begin glowing, strangers drop dead before him and man-sized ravens start attacking him, Charlie figures something's up. Along comes Minty Fresh — the man in green — to enlighten him: turns out Charlie and Minty are Death Merchants, whose job (outlined in the Great Big Book of Death) is to gather up souls before the Forces of Darkness get to them. While Charlie's employees, Lily the Goth girl and Ray the ex-cop, mind the shop, and two enormous hellhounds babysit, Charlie attends to his dangerous soul-collecting duties, building toward a showdown with Death in a Gold Rush-era ship buried beneath San Francisco's financial district. If it sounds over the top, that's because it is — but Moore's enthusiasm and skill make it convincing, and his affection for the cast of weirdos gives the book an unexpected poignancy." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The tradition of Death taking on a fumbling apprentice might seem fully plumbed by now in the literature of the fantastic, on a par with all those 'deal with the devil' tales. But if any contemporary humorist could be relied on to spin engaging variations on this riff, it would be Christopher Moore. Since his debut in 1992 with 'Practical Demonkeeping,' Moore has produced eight books that deftly blend... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) surreal, occult and even science-fiction doings with laugh-out-loud satire of contemporary culture. Powered by engines of the abnormal and unlikely, his tales feature eccentric lowlifes who find their desperate existences hilariously remade by intrusions from other spheres. 'A Dirty Job' is an outstanding addition to his canon. Protagonist Charlie Asher is a naturally cautious and timid soul, content with life as the proprietor of a junk shop. What sustains him is his marvelous wife, Rachel, who he can hardly believe ever consented to be his mate. And now that Rachel has delivered their first child, Sophie, Charlie's life seems complete. Of course, the birth of a daughter gives him lots of new apprehensions about mortality and the future, but in a superb example of Moore's narrative cunning, Charlie's dreads are misdirected. As the book begins, he loses not Sophie but Rachel to a 'cerebral thromboembolism.' Bad enough. But to complicate matters, a tall man dressed garishly in green, whom only Charlie can see, is at Rachel's side when she dies. And the fellow steals Rachel's favorite CD — now oddly aglow with her disembodied soul — in the confusion. This man, Charlie learns, is a mortal named Minty Fresh, a used-music dealer who moonlights as a 'Death Merchant,' one of a dozen deputies for Death. Their job is to collect 'soul vessels,' tangible objects that house the essences of the recently departed. These soul vessels are then passed on to living individuals who lack souls of their own, in a kind of modified version of reincarnation. And now Charlie has been tapped for the same job. The remainder of the novel covers five years of Charlie's life, during which time he has to raise Sophie as a single dad, perform his duties as a Death Merchant and thwart a trio of sewer-dwelling harpies out to undermine all human existence. In the course of these actions, he is aided by a motley cast: his two helpers at the junk store (a teenage Goth girl and a bachelor ex-cop fixated on mail-order brides); his obnoxious lesbian sister; two hellhounds; and a mystical young leader of the 'squirrel people,' living puppets formed of random organic debris. Much of the pleasure of Moore's tale resides not only in the ingeniously unpredictable events but also in the prickly vitality of his language. Striking figures of speech (the Death Merchants are 'secret agents of karma') and aphorisms grace the text: 'Everyone is happier, if they have someone to look down on, as well as someone to look up to, especially if they resent both.' And the dialogue follows a zany illogic worthy of the Marx Brothers, as in this colloquy between Charlie and Minty Fresh: 'Mr. Fresh looked up. 'The book says if we don't do our jobs everything could go dark, become like the Underworld. I don't know what the Underworld is like, Mr. Asher, but I've caught some of the road show from there a couple of times, and I'm not interested in finding out. How 'bout you?' ''Maybe it's Oakland,' Charlie said. ''What's Oakland?' ''The Underworld.' ''Oakland is not the Underworld!' ... ''The Tenderloin?' Charlie suggested.' Finally, Moore's book benefits from an instructional paradox he cannily exploits. Nothing enhances Charlie's life like death. 'Until he became Death, he'd never felt so alive,' writes Moore. Embracing what we fear enlarges our souls — until they can barely fit onto a compact disc. Paul Di Filippo's graphic novel, 'Top 10: Beyond the Farthest Precinct,' will be published in paperback in July." Reviewed by Paul Di Filippo, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Dizzyingly inventive and hypnotically engaging, A Dirty Job is...like no other book I've ever read." Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Son of a Witch
"One of the antic Moore's funniest capers yet." Kirkus Reviews
"This novel makes light of hellhounds, demons and outlandishly costumed squirrel cadavers....For all its tumultuous lunacy, A Dirty Job requires the occasional level-headed individual to provide a semblance of focus." New York Times
"A Dirty Job offers wit, chaos, subversion and a chance to flip death the middle finger." Portland Oregonian
"To keep a straight face while reading this book, one would have to be dead already and in the final stages of rigor mortis." Rocky Mountain News
"Smart people will be enormously amused." Library Jounral
"Moore's signature tossed-off humor is in full effect...and it's easy to care about his warm, lumpy, honest characters. Because of that, we'll forgive the occasional talking bobcat with a torso made of ham. You heard me." (Grade: B) Entertainment Weekly
About the Author
Moore is the author of eight previous novels: The Stupidest Angel, Fluke, Lamb, Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Bloodsucking Fiends and Island of the Sequined Love Nun. He divides his time between San Francisco and Hawaii. He invites readers to e-mail him at BSFiends@aol.com.
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