Book Review 70: Blood Sucking Fiends

‘I’ve seen him,” the Emperor whispered. “It’s a vampire.”

Tommy recoiled as if he’d been spit on. “A vampire florist?”

‘Well, once you accept the vampire part, the florist part is a pretty easy leap, don’t you think?’

Page 37
Blood Sucking Fiends is an early Christopher Moore novel. Jody, a redhead in San Francisco becomes a vampire and relies on newly arrived, aspiring writer Tommy to take care of her needs during the day.

This is the second time I’ve read it. The first time was years ago, before I startedwriting my own reviews. It was also the first Christopher Moore novel I read. The reason I read it the first time was that it seemed like an interesting take on the vampire mythology and that it would also be funny. It was. The second time I read it was because I had just finished reading Moore’s more recent “A Dirty Job” where a couple of the characters make an appearance (review coming shortly). Reading it the second time, after reading other more novels, made the experience richer.

It’s an entertaining book, but it is not nearly as good as his later novels. Over the course of his career Moore improved as a story teller and humorist. That’s not to say Blood Sucking Fiends isn’t good -- it is. It’s just not as mature as his later books. Which makes sense. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect someone to be better at their job after 15 years of doing it.

The strength of the book is in its flashes of awesome paragraphs. Moore sketches out memorable characters and gives them some common voices. Among the common themes is that women are much stronger than men.
She thought, There must be a hundred thousand dollars here. A man attacked me, choked me, bit my neck, burned my hand. then stuffed my shirt full of money and put a dumpster on me and now I can see heat and hear fog. I’ve won Satan’s lottery.

Page 16

‘Is there something wrong with your food?”

“No, I’m just not very hungry.’

“You’re going to break my heart, aren’t you?”

Page 60

“Me too,” he said. He hung up and thought: She’s evil. Evil, evil, evil. I want to see her naked.

Page 78

Why in the hell was she being so mysterious? He opened the envelope and took out a stack of hundred-dollar bills, counted them, then put them back in the envelope. Four thousand dol-lars. He had never seen that much money in one place. Where did she get that kind of money? Certainly not filling out claims at an insurance company. Maybe she was a drug dealer. A smuggler Maybe she embezzled it. Maybe it was all a trap. Maybe when he got to the impound lot to pick up her car, the police would arrest him. She had a lot of nerve signing her note “Love.” What would the next one say? “Sorry you have to do hard time in the big house for me. Love, Jody.” But she did sign it that way: “Love. What did that mean? Did she mean it, or was it habit? She probably signed all of her letters with “Love.’

Page 83

The vampire let go of Jody’s arm, reached across to put his hand on Hair Plugs’s shoulder, and held him fast to his seat. The drunk’s eyes went wide. The vampire smiled. “She’ll rip out your throat and drink your blood as you die. Is that what you want?”

Hair Plugs shook his head violently. “No, I already have an ex- wife.”

Page 214
Moore’s male main characters often appear at one of two poles -- the overconfident, macho character or the insecure, obsessive, and not-too-bright character represented by Tommy in several of these passages. Moore’s jokes, entertaining phrasing, and absurd situations keep me interested in reading.

It’s not just the supernatural and aspiring writers that Moore takes on. What book about San Francisco would be complete without the obligatory digs at Oakland? He’s able to comment on Oakland while giving us a vivid sensation of the enhanced senses a new vampire experiences.

She spotted a pay phone; a red chimney of heat rose from the lamp above it. She looked up and down the empty street. Above each streetlight she could see heat rising in red waves. She could hear the buzzing of the electric bus wires above her, the steady stream of the sewers running under the street. She could smell dead fish and diesel fuel in the fog, the decay of the Oakland mudflats across the bay, old French fries, cigarette butts, bread crusts and fetid pastrami from a nearby trash can, and the residual odor of Aramis wafting under the doors of the brokerage houses and banks. She could hear wisps of fog brushing against the buildings like wet velvet.. It was as if her senses, like her strength, had been turned up by adrenaline.

Page 15-16

Ah, but I must be strong for the troops. It could be worse, I suppose. I could be the Emperor of Oakland.

Page 12
The Emperor of San Francisco is a favorite recurring character in Moore novels. He’s an apparently homeless man with two dogs who sees himself at the emperor of the city. He’s well-known to many of the random citizens who appear to humor and defer to him. He offers many the wisdom of a benevolent king and the street-level intelligence of someone who hears and sees things on the street that most other people never notice. The Emperor, for example, worries about business people going about their days, and how for many, there is no future:
“They have to look right or their peers will turn on them like starving dogs. They are the fallen gods. The new gods are producers, creators, doers. The new gods are the chinless techno-children who would rather eat white sugar and watch science-fiction films than worry about what shoes they wear. And these poor souls desperately push papers around hoping that a mystical message will appear to save them from the new awkward, brilliant gods and their silicon-chip reality. Some of them will survive, of course, but most will fall. Uncreative thinking is done better by machines. Poor souls, you can almost hear them sweating.”

Tommy looked at the well-dressed stream of businesspeople. Then at the Emperor’s tattered overcoat, then at his own sneakers, then at the Emperor again. For some reason, he felt better than he had a few minutes before. “You really worry about these people, don’t you?’

‘It is my lot.”

Page 91-92
Make no mistake; this is a good book. It’s weakness is more evident, however, in comparison to later Moore novels. Unlike later books, this one feels like a series of interesting characters and scenes attached to an internal structure or outline. There’s a certain shallowness about it. It’s less of a funny book and more of a book with great jokes. In addition to other books in the same universe Moore also wrote a couple sequels to this book, and they’re sitting on my shelf right now. I can’t wait to read them.

More of my book reviews are available here

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