Monday, October 22, 2007

Island of the Sequined Love Nun, by Christopher Moore [2]

**/***** (2/5)

While Christopher Moore's ISLAND OF THE SEQUINED LOVE NUN stems from some semblance of fact and history in the islands of Micronesia, Moore admits in his afterword, "[my readers] know that using my books as a reference source is tantamount to using glazed doughnuts as a building material." The book satirizes on tribal cargo cults in the fictional Micronesian island of Alualu where the Shark People worship a long-deceased World War II pilot who delivered them from the Japanese and brought them western goods and luxuries. A very interesting blend here of a mysteriously pernicious conspiracy, light-hearted, westernized humor, a lackadaisical character's epiphany, supernatural weirdness, and deranged plotting make for an entertaining read amidst Moore's well-researched tribal context. The two significant women in the novel, Beth Curtis our Sky Priestess AKA Love Nun and tribal "mispel" Sepia, are both outlandish, especially crazed love nun Beth Curtis. We also have a transvestite navigator (Kimi), a grizzled outcast cannibal (Sarapul), the burdened yet muted tribal chief (Malink), the sad Dr. Sebastian Curtis, and finally the iconic and pristine matron of an airline company Mary Jean Dobbins. Last, but certainly not the least, we have our main character 30 year-old ladies man Tucker (Tuck) Case.

We encounter a disenchanted, lazy Tuck in the beginning of the novel going through the motions and usually opting for the easy way out. Again, Christopher Moore gets guys right: despite having many women, a beautiful piece of ass never fails to pique Tuck's interest. Described as a "geek in a cool guy's body," our pilot Tuck suffers a groin injury while having drunk sex and trying to pilot a plane. Understandably, Tuck spends most of the first half of the novel more concerned about his sexual prospects than all the trouble he acquires when he crashes the plane while having sex. Tuck comes to the attention of the Sky Priestess, Island Love Nun Beth Curtis and she and her husband eventually hire a strained Tuck to pilot their Learjet for deliveries from their island in Micronesia to Japan.

When, one morning, Tuck spent an empty hour trying to will his member to life by mentally wrapping his fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Nelson, in Saran Wrap, only to find his fantasy foiled by her insistence that he had no lead in his Number 2 pencil...he made his way to the beach.

I found ISLAND OF THE SEQUINED LOVE NUN funny, and in spite of the book's lack of flow from chapter to chapter, Moore seems to maintain an almost exasperating level of hilarity to his writing. On the down side, I found the chapters and pacing in the novel keenly jagged, lacking any flow or cohesion. Because the novel describes twisted circumstances with many angles, I'm not sure if any of the chapters really connected and the pacing seemed to come to a screeching halt as a result. The plotting and pacing doesn't really find its impetus until Part Three called Coconut Angel, and not even then until conditions impel Tuck to flee the island. I found Tuck's persistently apathetic demeanor towards the natives' dire circumstances tiring. Tuck really doesn't do anything until the island's mendacious Dr. Sebastian Curtis and his sadistic wife Beth Curtis place his own life in danger. I'm still at a loss to understand Beth Curtis' motivations, she was scary!

Despite the book's torpid pacing and twisted plotting, the book was still funny.

...traditional golf, as it was had always left Tuck cold. Strange, then, that he absolutely yearned for a seven iron, or maybe a shotgun...Tuck had been up since before dawn, awakened rudely and kept awake by what seemed like eight million roosters. it was now ten o'clock and they were still going strong. What joy to feel the thwack of a seven iron on red feathers, the satisfying impact of balanced metal on poultry (suddenly silenced and somewhat tenderized for your trouble). He saw himself wading into a bucket of roosters, swinging his seven iron madly (but always keeping his head down and his left arm straight), dealing death and destruction like the Colonel's own avenging angel. Welcome to Tucker Case's chicken death camp, my little feathered friends. Now kindly prepare to have your nuggets knocked off.... Tucker Case was not a morning person.

I did appreciate the main theme of the novel: characters in a rut awakened by an urge to change and make an impact. From Tuck to the reporter Jefferson Pardee and from the natives Malink to Sarapul, these characters in a rut take steps to change and do something. It just takes too long for Tuck to come to his epiphany and the sluggish pacing (it takes close to a 100 pages just to reach the island) dampened any sort of potential for an excited page-turning read.

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