Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bloodsucking Fiends, by Christopher Moore [4]

****/***** (4/5)

Tommy went to the news racks by the registers and gathered up an armload of women's magazines... There was a pattern here. Cellulite, PMS, and men who don't commit were the enemies. Delightfully light desserts, marriage, and multiple orgasms were the allies.

Tommy felt like a spy, as if he should be microfilming the pages under a gooseneck lamp in some back room of a Bavarian castle stronghold, and any minute some woman in SS gear would burst in on him and tell him that she had ways of making him talk. Actually that last part wouldn't be too bad.

Women seemed to have some collective plan, and most of it seemed to involve getting men to do stuff they didn't want to do. [He] flipped [to an article] entitled: "Men's Love for Sports Analogies: How to Use Vince Lombardi to Make Him Put the Seat Down." ("When one player falls in, the whole team gets a wet butt.") He read on: "When it's fourth and ten and Joe Montana decides to go for it, would his linemen tell him that they won't go to the store to get him tampons? I don't think so."

My first Christopher Moore novel BLOODSUCKING FIENDS: A LOVE STORY delights, enthralls, and heartily amuses in tearful fits of laughter, all in the context of a vampire love story spun into a hysterical parody. BLOODSUCKING FIENDS sucks you right in, and even during the slower mid-to-late portions of the novel, I couldn't put the book down. I absolutely loved the contemporary western prose replete with references to American movies, writers and products, I was enchanted by all of the characters, I enjoyed the San Francisco backdrop, and I was charmed by the love story itself. Nothing special in the plot, Christopher Moore writes to his strengths: absolutely relentless humor and a satirical parody of sorts. This book had me laughing out loud at various places as Moore relentlessly packs every paragraph with his offbeat, quirky humor. The book contains adult language and at times some violence (thought nothing too bad).

Did I enjoy it? You bet, and I'll be reading more Christopher Moore down the line for sure. Reading Christopher Moore for the first time was like being a kid in a candy store.

The Story.

BLOODSUCKING FIENDS features 26 year-old, "cute-but-not-beautiful," green-eyed, red-haired, Transamerica employee Jody Stroud breaking free from her shell of insecurities and fears. Jody can't seem to live without a man in her life and attracts the worst kind of handsome, hunky assholes who exploit her sweet, passive nature. She's lived with so many guys over the years, she's lost count.

As the story begins, Jody is meekly walking home to her latest, hunky asshole of a boyfriend, Kurt. After she's suddenly attacked in a dark San Francisco alley, she wakes up the night after with heightened senses, a bunch of money and a wry retaliatory disposition, the vampire predator in her finally fighting back. Jody rebels, she rebels against people walking all over her, she rebels against her asshole of a boyfriend and knocks him out to suck some blood, and her survival instincts kick in as she seeks dark shelter from sunup to sundown. We're treated to the fun superhuman intricacies that go along with learning to cope with your new Vampire-self. Jody kicks some serious ass and the book rises above the hangover a lot romance novels have over insecurities in appearance. But then again, this isn't exactly a romance novel as much as it is Christopher Moore's hilarious parody on vampire love.

[Jody] thought, There must be a hundred thousand dollars here. A man attacked me, choked me, bit my neck, burned my hand, then stuffed my shirt full of money and put a dumpster on me and now I can see heat and hear fog. I've won Satan's lottery.

Meanwhile, C. Thomas Flood's family and friends ostracized him from his home in Indiana for trying to make it as a writer and being a bit on the sensitive side. Tommy doesn't exactly fit in with stereotypical hickville consisting of bowling, beer and rampant sex. After his car burns down from the drive to San Francisco, Tommy now needs a place to stay and a job to support his potential writing career. A comical, older homeless man known as "The Emperor of San Francisco" suggests a Safeway store for Tommy's job. By the way, the Emperor and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus that he affectionately refers to as his "troops," are in some ways the heart of the novel. The Emperor rocks!

At the Safeway store, Tommy leads the graveyard shift stocking the shelves with the "Animals," juvenile delinquents between the ages of 16 and 27. The book describes some of the Animals' hilarious escapades during the graveyard shifts including using a turkey to bowl on a lubed, slick surface, surfing on a high-tech janitorial machine and drinking beer. The Animals always manage to get their stocking done though! All the Animals are introduced, from muscular, macho Simon to explosive expert Drew; all of them are fun and interesting and leave their mark on the story in their unique way.

Tommy meets Jody one late night as Jody searches for someone to do her daytime errands after she leaves her latest boyfriend (errands such as retrieving her impounded car, picking up her last check from Transamerica, etc.). Tommy calls her beautiful and Jody aggressively asks him out on a date. Jody would never have done that her last life, she thinks. Jody does and says things otherwise beyond the meek girl she once was, and Jody is absolutely loving her new, confident Vampire self. Things between Tommy and Jody progress intimately after a rather humorous first date and they quickly move in together. Jody trusts a younger Tommy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, and reveals everything to Tommy (about how she was turned into a vampire). Tommy agrees to help with Jody's errands during the day. Despite growing closer intimately, both still feel lonely since they're not like each other (one's a vampire, the other a human), and a younger Tommy constantly laments, "You're going to break my heart, aren't you." Jody answers, "Irreparably."

Jody and Tommy experiment over the fact vs. fiction of vampire culture. The exchanges are funny and I thought Moore handled the interchanges between a younger Tommy and an older Jody well. Since he's younger, Tommy does get a bit whiny at times, but he never manages to lose his sense of humor. It's a tumultuous relationship but a funny one nonetheless and Moore gets guys right: horny, sex-crazed beings of lust that can show tremendous love. Thankfully, Moore avoids the endless lovesick introspection romance novelists force upon their heroes' thoughts for their heroines and yet BLOODSUCKING FIENDS: A LOVE STORY still captures our hero Tommy's emotional affection for Jody.

"Let's try something." [Tommy] held his hand by her face. "Lick my finger."

[Jody] pushed his hand away. "Tommy, just finish eating and we can go home and do this."

"No, it's an experiment. My cuticles get split from cutting boxes at the store. I want to see if you can heal them." He touched her lower lip. "Go ahead, lick." [Jody] snaked out a tentative tongue and licked the tip of his finger, then took his finger in her mouth and ran her tongue around it. "Wow," Tommy said...his cuticle, which had been split and torn, had healed.

"Do another." He thrust another finger in her mouth." She spit it out. "Stop that...."

"Let's go home," Tommy said. "I've got a blister on my big tow."

"No fucking way, writer-boy."

"It's low in calories," Tommy coaxed, prodding her foot with his sneaker. "Good, and good for you."

"Not a chance."

Intermingled with this romance, Moore weaves the growing concern over the mysterious deaths of terminally ill people. Our homicide detectives investigating the deaths, the gay-but-rough Cavuto and the serene Cuban/Mexican/Colombian Rivera, make for an intriguing pair in their own right. The older vampire who initially turned Jody seems to be at large, and Jody and Tommy suspect the older vampire. It's funny, some of the interchanges between a feisty Jody and the laughing, older Vampire reminded me of the myriad of hero-and-heroine interactions from romance novels. The hundreds year-old vampire is darker and more mysterious than Tommy and that darker, mysterious quality fits the romance-hero mold much more so than our humble, skinny writer-boy Tommy.

In many ways, Jody and Tommy represent Moore's iconoclast figures in love stories.

Tommy interrupted, "Actually, there's only one body in the freezer. The other is my girlfriend."

"You sick fuck." Cavuto drew back as if to hit Tommy.

BLOODSUCKING FIENDS: A LOVE STORY had me in a constant state of laughing, chuckling, smiling and anticipating fervor. Good book, the love story itself may not work for some, but I enjoyed that aspect as well. And guess what. There's a sequel to this...

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