You know that song by The Who? That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about Christopher Moore's book A Dirty Job, which is by far my favorite book of his (and I've read most of what he's written).
On top of being hilarious (which I'll get to in a minute), it's incredibly well-researched. Granted, it may not be perfect -I'm not up-to-date on most of my mythology -but the research he did shows in the writing and the characterization; what errors there may be can be chalked up to artistic license, IMHO. From the Morrigan to Tibetan Buddhism, Moore covers a huge amount of mythological ground in dealing with death, and he does it in a highly believable way (given that the book is fiction/fantasy/humor writing -you expect it to be weird).
It helps that it's set in San Francisco. I don't know why -I've never been there -but the way Moore makes the city into a character in many ways pulls the reader to the book even more. To have such a living setting, and one that becomes familiar even just within the story, is an invaluable part of A Dirty Job.
A Dirty Job is a book about Death (and regular little-d death as well). It deals with the idea of a mythological construct called Death who would work with the dying, the ferrying of souls and the question of the afterlife. My religious/spiritual views being what they are, I like that the book doesn't turn into a proselytizing sort of a deal (it's not the point of the book -it doesn't even happen in his book Lamb, which is about Jesus), but what I really like is the direction Moore takes the concepts of death.
He interweaves so many ideas about the afterlife -the concept of a soul, transmutation/metempsychosis (Google it), reincarnation -into our modern, materialistic world and on top of being hopeful and surprisingly logical (within the construction of the story), it's sort of funny.
Moore's humor is warped. That's a big part of the reason I like him, actually; my humor is also warped. A Dirty Job is, quite frankly, one of the funniest books I've ever read. At times it's very, very dirty humor (the type that has me either cackling loudly or pressing my lips together to keep from doing so) and at other times it's a very sympathetic form of humor that just leaves me smiling. Moore treats the idea of death with compassion, but not with fear or loathing -it's a very gentle portrait of death (usually), and it's also very entertaining.
The characters Moore populates his world with in A Dirty Job are fantastic. Most of them seem like caricatures at first glance -too perfect, too strange or too cliched. But that's only at the first, short look. Within a few encounters (or sentences, for that matter), these caricatures quickly settle into exquisitely human (or partly human) roles; these are the sorts of people we all know and love/hate/deal with. Although the characters are all a little more extreme in one aspect or another than most people we know, they are each still real enough that by the end of the book they are unforgettable.
I won't spoil the story by going into too much detail about the plot. It's really a book that deserves to be read, and read more than once. My own copy is battered from having been read around 8 times by myself and lent out to many, many people. The cover glows in the dark. This book satisfies my childishness and my intellectualism and my love of good writing in every way imaginable. Go read it.
The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.