Speaking of weird tales that take place under water, I recently read Fluke: Or, I know why the winged whale sings by Christopher Moore. This was another of those books I bought because of the manipulative sales techniques of bookstores. They trap me like those fish cages where the fish swims in the large hole that gradually gets smaller and then can’t get out becuase the hole looks too small. Fluke was positioned right out front and its shiny cover and intriguing plot hooked me. Given the prefered reader card that was burning a whole in my pocket there was little I could do to resist.
I understand Christopher Moore is a popular author – his previous book Lamb was, according to the blurbs on the back, quite well received – but I had not previsouly read any of his work. Since I enjoy quirky, even slightly odd, books I figured Fluke would prove entertaining. I was correct, Fluke is a quirky and slightly odd book and it was entertaining.
The main character in Fluke is Nate Quinn, a marine behaviorial biologist trying to figure out why whales sing. He and his research partner, Clay Demodocus, are based in Maui. In the course of his work Nate sees what appears to be the words “Bite Me” on the fluke or tail of the whale. This starts in motion a series of increasingly implausable events. Someone trashes the research facility they use, the roll of flim containing the proof of what Nate saw on the tail comes up missing, and their boat dissappears. But soon these activities seem mundane as the book picks up the pace and climbs to its surprise revelation. What starts out as your basic mystery, in the hands of Christopher Moore becomes a surreal comic adventure. I won’t spoil it for you because it is a real doozy, but as the cover flap reveals, it takes place 623 feet underwater off the coast of Chille. It involves one of Nate’s old proffesors and something like the primordial soup you learned about in biology.
One of the things that makes the book intresting is the characters. Besides, Nate, you have Amy the new research assistant with a body that makes Nate think about the ethics of forming a relationship with your research assistant but whose resume seems a little fuzzy once you scratch below the surface. There’s Kona, whose real name is Preston Applebaum, the white boy who talks and acts like a drugged out rastafarian. Kona at first seems like a bumbling idiot who is more trouble than he is worth, but he ends up contributing a crucial ellement in the unraveling of the mystery. Libby, Nate’s third wife, is a lesbian after a particullarly unpleasant run in with whale sperm. I won’t even attempt to explain Nate’s love interest in the story, you will just have to read that for your self.
Moore takes all these characters and throws them together to create an humorous and yet oddly beleivable community. The dialogue is crisp and the charcters have personality. Moore keeps the pace moving by regularly adding in plot twists. Once you have reached the point where the mystery is revealed, Moore changes pace and the romantic/comic adventure begins. Sure much of the action is widely implausible but once you are in this far you want to see how things turn out.
I don’t know if this is typical of Moore’s work or not but I found it an entertaining read. The humor is on the silly side and some of it can be a little over-the-top, but I enjoy silly smart-ass humor and slap-stick type comedy. The characters are interesting, the pace is good, and the plot twists keep you on your toes. Plus you have to admire such a wild and imaginative story. I would recommend it to anyone with a silly sense of humor who enjoys stories with a slightly odd twist.
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