Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Sucking of Blood!

Christopher Moore is a favorite author of mine, but he's also an author I haven't much read in the last couple of years, for one reason or another. I adored Fluke, but I was less impressed with The Stupidest Angel (although that book, too, was amusing). I realized suddenly that I hadn't read Moore in a long time, so I decided to read one of his more recent books that I haven't got to, You Suck: A Love Story, which is a sequel to his near-classic Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story. But I hadn't read Bloodsucking Fiends in many years, either, so I wouldn't have been entirely up to speed on the state of affairs at the outset of the sequel, so I decided to read them back to back. The verdict? Fiends is still a terrific book, and while You Suck has a lot of its virtues, it ultimately struck me as a bit of an unnecessary book.

In Fiends, young Tommy Flood, all of nineteen years old, arrives in San Francisco from his small town home in Indiana, having decided that San Fran is where you go when you're an aspiring writer. (He's already picked out his "official" writing name, C. Thomas Flood.) He gets a job as the night manager at a local grocery store (hmmm, I like this guy already), the guy who has to supervise the crew of ne'er-do-wells who basically restock the store overnight. Their signature pastime on these long overnight shifts is turkey bowling, which is exactly what it sounds like: they set up pins, such as 2-liter pop bottles, and then launch frozen turkeys across the floor at them. (I would be lying if I didn't admit, as a grocery store employee, to wanting to do this. We've also speculated on setting up a trebuchet outside the back of the store and using it to launch turkeys up and over the building to rain down on people in the parking lot. We're a weird bunch.)

Anyway, Tommy meets a girl pretty soon, a very pretty girl named Jody who has just had the misfortune of being made into a vampire by a much older, and more cynical, vampire who plans to kill her anyway after just a few days. Soon Tommy takes on another job, as Jody's personal assistant; he does for her all of the things that require day-time activity, which she obviously can't indulge because she's a vampire.

Meanwhile, a couple of cops are tailing Jody because they think she may have been involved in a murder; also along for the ride is a homeless bum who calls himself the Emperor of San Francisco. All of this stirs together into a terrifically entertaining story that ends on a slightly bittersweet note, and then I figured these characters were done. So when Moore returned to them in You Suck, I was curious. It's always a danger to provide a sequel to a work that doesn't really need one, and I think Moore fell victim to that danger here.

You Suck begins with Tommy saying those very words to Jody, because she's just decided, without asking first, that their lives together would be a lot better if they were both vampires, so she does Tommy the service of turning him into a vampire. He doesn't take terribly kindly to this at first, although he gradually warms to the idea, even as his former mates at the grocery store are now planning to kill him (they think he's a vampire, see), and even as the vampire villain from Fiends is released from...where he was imprisoned in the first book. (I don't want to give it away.) Hilarity and hijinks ensue.

Reading You Suck felt odd to me. I read it back-to-back with Fiends, and while with some sequels you're happy to re-encounter your old friends, so to speak, Fiends ended for me on such a satisfying note that I just didn't see the need for this story, and as I read it, I was never able to really shake that impression. The book literally feels as though Moore knew he needed to write a book and decided to revisit some earlier characters, so I found You Suck to be, largely, a disappointment.

Of course, a lesser Christopher Moore book is still a Christopher Moore book, so it's still worth the trip. Think of it as a lesser episode or two of a favorite comedy show on teevee, maybe one of those episodes of The Office that focuses on Phyllis or Oscar. It's still full of some wicked laughs and sharp writing:

It turned out that superhuman vampire strength came in handy when shaving a thirty-five pound cat. After a couple of false starts, which had them chasing Chet the huge shaving-cream-covered cat around the loft, they discovered the value of duct tape as a grooming tool. Because of the tape, they weren't able to shave his feet. When they were finished, Chet looked like a bug-eyed, potbellied, protohuman in fur-lined, duct-tape space boots – the feline love child of Golem and Doddy the house elf. [sic]

So, I strongly recommend Bloodsucking Fiends, but only regularly recommend You Suck. (Even though it is fun sitting in a public place holding up a book whose front cover reads, in big letters, You Suck.)

No comments: