Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dirty Jobs - Christopher Moore

What are the guys that aren't Alpha Males? Why they are Beta Males of course! Charlie Asher is the quintessential Beta Male... amazed and terrified by women, passive aggressive, and perpetually panicking over his hyperactive imagination. Poor Charlie loses his wife during childbirth and is left a single dad to raise Sophie. Unfortunately for Charlie, he also acquired a new profession as his wife passed away. Charlie has become death, no not the death with the big D, more like the Santa's Elves of Death... he, along with a few other San Francisco residents collect soul vessels after people pass on and get them to their proper places. But poor Charlie doesn't get it... and to make matters worse he has quite the assortment of odd neighbors, employees, family, and random passersby to make his quest even more difficult. And if he doesn't succeed? Well then the Sewer Harpies will come out and plunge the world in Darkness.

Much like Moore's other books, the greatest amount of humor comes from the supporting cast. Lilly, the off-kilter goth girl who works for Charlie (you may recognize her from You Suck - She is Abby's best friend) Ray, who is Charlie's other employee at the antique shop, another Beta Male who is always looking for love on foreign bride sites. Then you have the foreign neighbors Ms. Korjev and Ms. Ling who help to raise Sophie while Charlie is trying to figure the Death thing out. And of course with this being in San Francisco you have the Emperor and his two sidekicks as well as a minor unidentified appearance from Jody (from Bloodsucking Fiends).

I found this book to be both hilarious and sweet. Charlie as a single dad is touching... panicking over everything that could happen to his new infant daughter, while having to deal with the loss of his wife and a new found concept of death. One can only assume (not only from the content of the book, but also from the acknowledgements) that this book was written after a painful loss on the part of the author. There is a little more soul searching than one is used to in a Moore book, but that doesn't keep the laughs from coming. I actually found the slightly more serious aspect to be refreshing and a great counterbalance to the humor that Moore is so famous for. By far my favorite characters are the two foreign neighbors, the scene with the dead hamsters is one of the funniest things I've read in a while, and the Hell Hounds were a wonderful addition... especially everyone's reactions to them.

True, many of the characters here are a bit stereotypical, but rather than detracting from the story, these stereotypes are molded into entirely new creations and made into characters that you can't help but to love. There is a plot here, and it is true that the ending is a bit weak, and not what the reader wants... but we don't read Moore for the plot, we read Moore for the wonderful people who inhabit his world. Because in the end, we all know someone just like them. I highly recommend this book, but would suggest reading it after "Bloodsucking Fiends" and "You Suck" because you will have a better appreciation for Rivera and the Emperor. That and since they all three take place in the same literary world, you might as well read them in order. Happy Reading!

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