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R&R 117 | Fluke

Yay, the first review of 2011! Reading & Reviewing celebrates its 3 year anniversary this Wednesday! 🙂

Christopher Moore
Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings
First published in: 2003
This edition: Perennial, 2004
ISBN: 0-06-056668-x
Genre: humor, fiction
Pages: 321
Cover illustration and typography by Ruth Marten

book117-fluke-1000px

If after reading COYOTE BLUE, LAMB, A DIRTY JOB and THE STUPIDEST ANGEL I thought Christopher Moore had crazy thoughts, well, I ain't read nothin' yet. FLUKE, OR, I KNOW WHY THE WINGED WHALE SINGS made that pretty clear to me.

Moore starts innocently enough, with his marine-biologist Nate Quinn stumbling, one glorious day, upon a peculiar whale sighting: he could have sworn he saw the words "BITE ME" written on this particular humpback whale's tail.
…Nahhh. Nuh uh. Impossible. His assistant Amy didn't see it, so it must have been his imagination or something. Shaking off this, well, hallucination, Nate focuses on his work: finding out why whales sing. What do they mean when they sing?
This keeps him busy for a while, but when his office is broken into and destroyed, Nate can't help but to think that something very fishy is going on here…

You all know about my love for Christopher Moore by now. I expect you to know about it this love, which remains intact, despite the mess that is FLUKE.

FLUKE is quirky and informative the first 100 pages or so, which I've really enjoyed reading: there's lots of background info on whale research. And I'm fascinated by whales, I freakin' adore whales – so naturally reading about whale research grabs my attention. Christopher Moore really makes an effort to get to know as much as possible on the subject, and to make it understandable to us without sounding like a droning college professor who'd much rather be someplace else. Christopher Moore is hilarious and you learn something, too.

He's an opinionated fellah and takes a stand: throughout the book, Moore's concerns about the environment can be discovered in between the jokes and one-liners, and an afterword has the author make a passionate case for saving whales. Moore scores a bunch of points with me there. (Did I mention yet that I adore whales? Yes? Well, I can't say it enough.) I love to laugh, but I appreciate that this story stems from a deeper, serious concern.

Apart from the whale lovin', what also makes Fluke's beginning highly entertaining are the characters and their interactions. Kona, the white Rastafarian wannabe from Jersey, born and raised Preston Applebaum, is particularly colorful and memorable. Nate's not a terribly exciting character, but he's a likable guy-next-door-who-sees-the-words-"bite-me"-on-whale-tails.

Moore keeps you guessing for a while, you're never really sure what is up. I like that vague mysterious atmosphere, wondering what the deal is with the whale.

Then all is revealed, and Moore jumps the shark whale: FLUKE spins out of control, and while Moore is an absurdist author and you should expect to enter his latest version of Bizarro World at any given moment, this time it's just too much. I hoped Moore would keep up the whale mystery story and go somewhere crazy with that, but he just doesn't go in the direction I had hoped for (from whales Moore went to Goo, whaley-boys and a resurrected Amelia Earhart). Kudos for being surprising; Chris Moore always manages to blow you out of the water with his imagination. But this time, it doesn't work for me, and this is coming from a fan of his.

FLUKE is a much slower read from here on out, less interesting and a lot less funny, which kinda pains me to admit. Moore just goes overboard, and FLUKE sinks. Not even the whales can do much to save it, unfortunately. (Though I still adore whales.)

Just let me say this though: don't let this review discourage you from trying a book by Christopher Moore. I've read so many of his books, and so far FLUKE's really been the only let down. That's about 1 out of 7. Try LAMB, BLOODSUCKING FIENDS or A DIRTY JOB – I've enjoyed those the most, and I'm confident that they'll give you a much better idea of Christopher Moore and his work than FLUKE does.

Karin Elizabeth
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