Since picking up Lamb and A Dirty Job a couple of years ago, I’ve been a big fan of Christopher Moore’s writing. I’ve said before that I think it’s far too easy to dismiss Moore as nothing more than a humorist, when he is a very skilled author who does a lot of interesting things in all of his books. This book is no exception.
The characters in this book are all interesting, but not terribly deep. The book focuses on Sam Hunter, a full blooded Crow indian who left his reservation when he was 15 due to a “deadly misunderstanding with the law” (words from the back of the book). Since then he’s become an insurance salesman, and because of this he’s become very adept at hiding who he is, to the point where he really doesn’t know who he is, only who he is pretending to be.
Modern day (well, modern day when it was written, the book was published back in 1994) California primarily, but also located partly in other states.
There’s a problem in trying to talk about the plot of this book, it’s a little hard to discuss without spoilers, especially since the first 1/3 of the book is largely about setting up the story and the mythology that Moore uses for the rest of the book. I typically don’t try to talk about events that take place more than the first third of the way through the book, so I won’t get into too much of the plot here. But one of the things about this book is that it’s less about the plot and more about the meaning behind it.
One of the books that I read before I started this blog was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of Gaiman’s work, but a whole lot of other people are. One of the most thoughtful reviews of American Gods that I’ve ever heard was that the book was really about what it’s like to be a god from a foreign country living in America today. I think that this book does a better job of explaining that problem than Gaiman’s, while at the same time telling a better overall story.
Sam has his normal life interrupted by the ancient Crow god Coyote, and Moore does a perfect job of showing how different the world today is from the world that Coyote knew. Moore also does a good job of showing that the gods of old largely survive based upon the the stories that are told about them, and he explains this by visiting another god later in the book who is largely dead to the world because his stories are never told.
At the same time, we’re shown the story of how Sam lives his life basically going through the motions, and never really thinking about what he really wants, only thinking about what he needs to do to get by. So while Coyote’s part of the story is talking about the loss of old religions, Sam’s is about the alienation that we feel from each other in our daily lives. Sam’s story also talks about how easily our simple little lives can get thrown out of whack by a seemingly innocuous meeting.
Not quite as funny as some of Moore’s other work, but a very well written and thoughtful book.