Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bloodsucking Fiends: Cannonball Read #1

Whenever you get ready to read a novel by Christopher Moore, you can expect a quirky and offbeat look at whatever subject matter he happens to be tackling, and Bloodsucking Fiends is no exception. When protagonist Jody wakes up under a dumpster with a burnt and blackened hand and heightened senses after having been attacked the night before, it doesn’t take long for her to figure out that she is no longer exactly human, but it takes the entire novel for her to realize what being a vampire really means.

The tag line on the cover describes this novel as “a love story,” and it’s true that there is as much focus on self-discovery and falling in love as there is vampirism and murder. The plot is driven forward by the harassment of Jody by her creator, the ancient vampire Elijah ben Sapir. He keeps leaving the bodies of his victims, necks broken and bodies drained of blood, near her hiding places, so that the homicide officers in charge of the cases draw ever nearer to Jody.

Jody is more than just a vampire in the story. She is a confused young woman who is afraid to be alone. At twenty-six, she is already a serial monogamist, with ten live-in boyfriends under her belt. Whatever emotions she feels for one, are automatically transferred to the next. She knows that what she feels is less real love than desperation, but she is so in need of companionship that she can't stop herself. When she is turned, she is more alone then ever; with no one to share her new senses with, the wonder of being able to hear the fog brush up against buildings and to see the heat signatures and health levels of people is lessened, and she looks to fill the void with more companionship.

There are many colorful characters throughout the novel. C. Thomas Flood (Tommy to his friends) is the fresh-out-of-the-midwest wannabe Kerouac that Jody clings to as her protector and love interest. He works graveyard stocking shifts at Safeway with the “Animals” who like to party first, work second. Turkey Bowling is one of their many nocturnal activities, but when one of their number is victimized, they form a merry band of misfits and help save the day. Their leader is the Emperor of San Francisco and Protector of Mexico, known as Your Highness to the good people of the City, but by all appearances he is simply a crazy old homeless man with his two dogs in tow, Bummer and Lazarus. He is one of the few who realizes that the city has been besieged by a vampire, and he wanders the city at night wearing make-shift armor and wielding a wooden sword. The two detectives in charge of the homicides, Cavuto and Rivera, slowly reach the same conclusions, though they continue looking for reasonable explanations to the bitter end.

As with other Christopher Moore novels, Bloodsucking Fiends is a light, entertaining and quick read (I read it in about a day and a half). Its look into the life of a fledgling vampire is somewhat original, what with the tests that Tommy performs on Jody to see which of the vampire legends are true, but I don’t think that Christopher Moore will be winning any Pulitzer Prizes any time soon. The ending of the novel comes quickly and is somewhat unsatisfying, though Moore does a good enough job of characterization that I actually cared about what happened to them next. Character development is a strong point in the novel, and Moore excels at drawing detailed portraits of colorful characters. The Emperor alone makes this a novel worth checking out.

I would recommend this novel to others, though I don’t hold Moore in the high esteem that many of my other friends do. He may have fun takes and interesting story ideas, but I think he’s quirky for quirks sake, and sometimes it seems a little forced.


Anonymous said...

hmmm, i may have to check it out.

great review!

Commander Strikeher said...

Ha, we did read the same book first! If you liked this one, check out the sequel, "You Suck". I listened to that one on audiobook, and I actually liked the sequel a little more. It has some great new characters. I just finished Bloodsucking Fiends this morning, so my review will be up in a couple of days. It looks like we have similar tastes.