Having enjoyed my one and only Christopher Moore book, the excellent "Fool," I decided to start investigating the rest of the canon. I was at least partially motivated by Scott's observation that many of his books take place in the Bay Area. I like the Bay Area, and I like fiction, so combining the two can be a real winner.
"Practical Demonkeeping" actually takes place near Big Sur, which may be even cooler than the Bay Area. Berkeley and other local cities get their props as well, and much of the book is steeped in a quintessentially Northern Californian attitude.
This was Moore's first book, and it kind of shows. Reading this felt a little like reading The Big U: both are fascinating snapshots of a writer with a lot of raw talent who is working his way towards the great writer he will become. In this case, Moore already had a great sense of humor, a good ear for dialog, and an interesting plot. His main weakness here is actually the same as Stephenson's weakness in The Big U: it feels like he has trouble with his characters. Some are much more developed than others, some feel kind of inessential, and a few seem inconsistent.
That isn't a real criticism, though. The book as a whole definitely works, I just like complaining about things.
The plot was pretty good. I think I'm spoiled by Gaiman; any other author who integrates mythology and/or religion into a contemporary work has some seriously stiff competition. The demonic aspect was rather Miltonic - interesting, but nothing that hasn't been done before. The djinn aspect felt a little tacked-on... maybe it's just my Western prejudices, but I have a hard time comparing the power of a genie to the power of a devil.
But, anyways: the actual storyline, and the whole bit with Catch being bound by rules but still basically free to do what he wanted, was done well.
I got a real kick out of reading an early-90's contemporary novel. There were so many things in here that would have seemed totally natural at the time but feel like anachronisms now. Like smoking in restaurants, and aerobics programs, and BBS's.
"Practical Demonkeeping" wasn't as good as Fool, but it was still good enough to keep me interested in Moore. I'm looking forward to retracing his progression. Ahh... it feels so good to finally get another author whose work I can devour without waiting in agony for another book to come out.