Saturday, March 12, 2011

Doesn't Suck

Ahhhh... that's more like it!

In ordinary circumstances I would have taken more time off after my relatively-disappointing read of Fluke before returning to the Christopher Moore well. I've historically had a tendency to get addicted to authors, devour everything by them that I could get my hands on, and rapidly experience the law of diminishing returns. Because of that, I tend to make a conscious effort to space out my approaches to authors I enjoy, and I'm extra-careful to back off when I feel like I may be getting too accustomed to them and thus not enjoying their work as much as I otherwise might.

Here, though, I'm glad that I moved straight from Fluke to You Suck, which made me realize that I still do enjoy Moore's work, just not that one book (as much).

You Suck is a sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, and a sequel done well: it carries forward the best aspects of the first book, including the terrific characters, unusual plot, and super-sharp writing, and adds some fresh ingredients of its own. I had certain expectations going in, and they were soundly met.


So: vampires. The book picks up right after BF left off: Thomas has become a vampire. He's changed by this, of course, but he remains the thoroughly likeable exuberant freed-Midwesterner doofus of the first book: he acts like an especially energetic puppy when exploring his newfound powers, whines when he tries to get his way, enthusiastically tries to solve the problems thrown his way.

Pretty much all of the characters from the first book return. The surviving Animals have been to Vegas and back, losing their ill-gotten gains with astonishing speed. The cops are keeping things low. The original vampire eventually escapes from his prison and continues his odd test, leaving corpses behind to frighten the populace. And the Emperor sticks around too; he has less to do in this book, but provides his regal presence and assurance to some crucial scenes.

The book adds a bunch of new characters, a few of whom are minor but several which are more important. Probably my favorite is Abby Normal, a high school sophomore goth chick who Thomas recruits as their new minion. (She calls him "Lord Flood," and for most of the book has the mistaken impression that he was friends with Byron.) She's pretty fun in general, but my favorite part is her chapters, which Moore writes as entries from her diary. Unlike the rest of the book, which is done in Moore's comic third-person voice, these chapters are done in first-person, just-after-the-fact, and man, Moore has lots of fun with it. Lots of dialect, slang, stream of consciousness. And most of the dialog is of the form: "So I was like, 'Yo, dude, wherefore art thou giving me such a hard time, sir?' And he was all, 'Duh, der, look at me, I'm a stupid fat cop.'" This is how people sound when they're recounting dialog to other people: summarizing it, coloring it, reinterpreting history to make yourself seem more clever. It has a great effect here; knowing Abby as we do, we can sort of de-crypt her recounting of events and come up with a reasonable approximation of what actually occurred.

Let's see, what else... there's Chet, another homeless guy who's way less cool than the Emperor but who still achieves comic greatness, mostly due to his huge cat. Blue is kind of the main villain of the book: the Animals picked her up in Vegas, where she bled their money dry. She now terrorizes and leads them. Jerrod is kind of a bummer of a character; he's more of a whiney brat than anything. Jerrod and Abby's families provide some good color to these determinedly moody characters, but aren't intended to be fully fleshed out. Finally, towards the end we see three mysterious other vampire characters. They get almost no narrative time at all, but seem likely to figure into the sequel.


There is a sequel, of course. Apparently this set of books is one of Moore's most popular, and his fans keep clamoring for more. I can't blame them. The satire is sharp, the characters are hilarious, the plot is wild (without veering into Fluke-ish nonsense), and everything moves along at a nice pace. I'm now back at the other extreme, deliberately holding off on reading my next Moore book because I want to keep around something good for me to read when I need it.

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