(Morrow, $14.95, 276 pages, hardcover; published in November 2004.)
For his eighth novel, The Stupidest Angel, comic fantasist Christopher Moore brings back a number of familiar characters from his previous works, while revisiting Pine Cove, the Californian community introduced in his first novel, Practical Demonkeeping. This is a fun bonus for faithful readers, but The Stupidest Angel is a fully self-contained work that requires no prior knowledge.
The angel Raziel is sent to Earth to perform this year's Christmas miracle. He lands in Pine Cove, where nothing ever goes quite according to plan. The accidental murder of a man in a Santa Claus suit by his ex-wife initiates a series of catastrophic events that the angel, in his divine stupidity, exacerbates while seeking to perform his miraculous task.
The sprawling cast includes a talking fruit bat, a sword-wielding former B-movie starlet who has trouble distinguishing fiction from reality, a pot-smoking hippie cop, a heartbroken biologist involved in questionable experiments, and many more bizarre outcasts.
About two-thirds in, Moore bravely turns this Christmas farce into an unforgivingly savage (if still hilarious) horror tale. For the finale, he reverts to classic comedic mode, and that's a bit of a disappointment. The heightened tension thus dissipates instead of being resolved.
This one point aside, The Stupidest Angel is immensely rewarding and amusing. Moore's satirical imagination is in sharp form, and every page provokes waves upon waves of laughter.
Moore gets deep into the heads of his entire cast of crazy misfits, presenting in full glory their skewed worldviews, creating a mosaic of zany perspectives from which to enjoy the madcap proceedings. With impeccable comic timing, he piles on surprising twists and cleverly imagined scenes and situations, spicing everything up with exquisite turns of phrases and punchy repartee.
The result is typical Moore: intelligent, witty, and entertaining.
Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction
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© Claude Lalumière 11 December 2004, 23 April 2005