HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 May 2006
Noted for his irreverent and sometimes off-color humor, Christopher Moore has always ignored the constraints of the real world, creating new worlds and exploring new realities--the world of vampires in Bloodsucking Fiends, the spirit world of Native America in Coyote Blue, and the world of singing whales and the researchers who study them in Fluke. In this novel, he explores his most serious themes ever, examining the subject of death itself, creating wild and wacky situations while making many thoughtful observations about real life--and death.
Here Moore creates an imagined world in which Charlie Archer, an always timid Beta male, comes face to face with death when, just moments after giving birth to their daughter, his wife suddenly expires. The devastated Charlie soon believes that he is Death personified, a "Death Merchant." Along with others like him, the "Santa's Helpers of Death," Charlie discovers that his mission is to retrieve "soul vessels"--those personal objects which contain the souls of the dead who owned them, objects which Death Merchants see as red and glowing.
In the five years that pass after his wife's death, Charlie meets a typically Moore-like assemblage of unique people--a mailman who collects vintage,1970s pimpwear; the homeless "Emperor of San Francisco" and his dog; and a tall, green-clad black man named Minty Fresh, who sells used CDs. Gradually, Charlie discovers the mysterious other-world of Death--its ferocious "sewer harpies," giant ravens from the sewers; the Morrigan, three "women" who work with Orcus the Ancient One, who lives in the storm drain; the Luminatus, or Great Death, who keeps the balance between light and darkness; and the Hellhounds, Alvin and Mohammed, who serve the Ruler of the Underworld but are also his daughter Sophie's gigantic pets. Eventually, Charlie and his Death Merchant friends fight the evil forces of the Underworld in a final climactic battle, filled with the non-stop action and crazy twists that Moore has made his trademark, including a terrific surprise ending, guaranteed to leave a smile on your face.
As Moore examines the subject of death in some surprisingly imaginative scenes, he highlights death's outrageous ironies, using clever wordplay, puns, and throwaway humor about life. Though there are no "sequined love nuns," no sunglass-clad fruit bats, no porn stars like Kendra, Warrior Babe of the Outland, and no profanity, vulgar hilarity, or off-the-wall absurdities, Moore maintains his iconoclastic spirit and his humor by giving us some new ways to look at death, the ultimate challenge for us all. n Mary Whipple