2010-05-12

Book Review 52: The Stupidest Angel

stupidest angel

Winter denial: therein lay the key to California Schadenfreude—the secret joy that the rest of the country feels at the misfortune of California. The country said: "Look at them, with their fitness and their tans, their beaches and their movie stars, their Silicon Valley and silicone breasts, their orange bridge and their palm trees. God, I hate those smug, sunshiny bastards!" Because if you're up to your navel in a snowdrift in Ohio, nothing warms your heart like the sight of California on fire. If you're shoveling silt out of your basement in the Fargo flood zone, nothing brightens your day like watching a Malibu mansion tumbling down a cli into the sea. And if a tornado just peppered the land around your Oklahoma town with random trailer trash and redneck nuggets, then you can find a quantum of solace in the fact that the earth actually opened up in the San Fernando Valley and swallowed a whole caravan of commuting SUVs.
Page 163
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore takes us back to the well trod ground of Pine Cove, CA.  We’ve been here before, in the Practical Demon Keeping and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.  We meet familiar characters from those books plus characters from The Gospel According to Biff and The Island of Sequined Love Nun. And we they all get together, things get weird.

The novel has Moore’s trademark humor, and I loved seeing Skinner and Roberto again.  Unfortunately, the characters all seem less genuine and more wooden.

It’s like a Food Network Thanksgiving special. You see the promos and are excited to see all your favorite personalities in the same room. And yet when airs – when you see Emeril, Alton, Tyler, Paula, and Rachel talk about food with each other -- it all seems false and hallow.

And that’s what The Stupidest Angel is.  It’s a Christopher Moore Christmas Special. 

It’s funny and cute and disturbing and messed up, but it’s just not great.  Moore has a lot of great books but this one is just good.  Read his other stuff first.

That said, there are still some great moments in this book and some entertaining lines.  Moore does make his displeasure with the Iraq War known in a tangent that helps with characterization without distracting too much from the plot.
Santa might understand, though, since he knew toys. But Mom would never buy it. He'd been playing Barbarian George's Big Crusade on the PlayStation at his friend Sam's house, and they'd gotten into the infidel territory and killed thousands of the 'Rackies, but the game just didn't have any way to exit. It wasn't designed so you could ever get out of it, and before he knew it, it was dark outside and he'd forgotten and Christmas just going to be ruined.
Page 34
The local constable and his psychotic, former B-Movie starlet wife are prominently featured in this book.
'You cut it down with your sword?" Theo wasn't so worried about what she had cut it down with, but from where she'd cut it. He had a secret in the forest near their cabin.
'Yeah. We don't have a chain saw that I don't know about, do we?'
"No." Actually they did, in the garage, hidden behind some paint cans. He'd hidden it when her "artistic" moments had been more frequent. "That's not the problem, sweetie. I think the problem is that it's too big."
Page 57-58
While this passage is a good illustration of their relationship, I’m not a big fan of where Moore takes them later in the book. It just doesn’t seem right.  Or maybe it is right and I just wanted something better for them.

Skinner is Gabe’s dog.  One of the best parts of this books is when we see things thought Skinner’s perspective, with his very simple needs and world view.  After he chews on something he probably shouldn’t, he realizes:
I am so going to get bad-dogged for this, Skinner thought.
Page 200
Skinner’s owner is nerdy biologist who can’t relate to people.  He is at his best tromping through wetlands with Skinner.  Eventually we encounter him conducting experiments with rats, following a nasty breakup.
In the experiment, he allow male rats to approach a female rat in heat.  When they try to mount her, he gives them an electric shock.
'You stupid shit!" Gabe shouted. "You think they'd learn. I'll hit each of them with the jolt a dozen times today, but when I open the cage tomorrow, they'll all run back in and try to mount her again. You see, you see how we are?'
Page 112

The first thing that Theo noticed when he entered Gabe Fenton's cabin was the aquariums with the dead rats. The female was scampering around the center cage. sniffing and crapping and looking rat-happy, but the others, the males, lay on their backs, feet shot to the sky. Like plastic soldiers in a death diorama.
"How did that happen?"
'They wouldn't learn. Once they associated the shock with sex, they started liking it."
page 132
The dead in a local graveyard plays a role in this story.  The dead communicate with one another telepathically from within their graves.  And we learn some stuff about them.
Over in the graveyard, the dead, who had been listening all along, began to murmur anxiously about the new Christmas tree and the impending sex show.
page 60

No one knows why, but second only to eating the brains of the living, the dead love affordable prefab furniture.
Page 197
The Stupidest Angel  is a good book, but Moore had written better ones.  If you are already a Moore fan,go ahead and read it.  If you’re not familiar with his work, start with one of his other books.

You can read more of my book reviews here.


Here is the back cover synopsis of the book:
The Stupidest Angel is back - now with a new chapter!
'Twas the night (okay, more like the week) before Christmas, and all through the tiny communityof Pine Cove, California, people are busy buying, wrapping, packing, and generally getting into the holiday spirit.
But not everybody is feeling the joy. Little Joshua Barker is in desperate need of a holiday miracle. No, he's not on his deathbed; no, his dog hasn't run away from home. But Josh is sure that he saw Santa take a shovel to the head, and now the seven-year-old has only one prayer:
Please, Santa, come back from the dead.
But hold on! There's an angel waiting in the wings. (Wings, get it?) It's none other than the Archangel Raziel come to Earth seeking a small child with a wish that needs granting.

Unfortunately, our angel's not sporting the brightest halo in the bunch, and before you can say "Kris Kringle," he's botched his sacred mission and sent the residents of Pine Cove headlong into Christmas chaos, culminating in the most hilarious and horrifying holiday party the town has ever seen.
Move over, Charles Dickens -- it's Christopher Moore time.

2 comments:

Jon Clarke said...

Does the book review mean you're flying to Japan right now?

Ralph said...

A nice long review on "The Stupidest Angel" by you,Cromely.I usually find lenghty, detail reviews boring and tiresome,but your was a exception.You do have good writing skills.Compliments from Pay Per Click Services