Christopher Moore’s Pine Cove
In his first book which introduced us to the town of Pine Cove (Practical Demonkeeping) Christopher Moore made it very obvious that it’s about as different as can be from a normal small American community. Its residents are some of the quirkiest and most idiosyncratic people you will ever meet, and seldom does a moment go by without something majorly surrealistic taking place. It’s a place where man’s imagination runs as wild as can be, the perfect canvas for Moore to explore his convoluted ideas in as much depth as he could ever want to. The first time around, our adventures involved a green demon and immortality… in Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, we’re dealing with a giant lizard, placebos, an erotic revolution, and oh so much more.
To give this just a tad bit of sense, a few things have been happening simultaneously around town. To begin with, the doctor has about a third of the population on antidepressants, but after an obsessive-compulsive patient commits suicide, the good doc Valerie Riordan finds herself at fault. After blackmailing the fish fetishist and pharmacist, she ensures that all of her patients are now receiving placebos instead of the real medication they need. At the same time, a radiation leak from a nuclear power plant is seeping deep into the water and awakening something fierce, a 20-foot sea lizard named Steve. The town is rapidly descending into madness and chaos, with only a pot-headed constable having the sense of mind to try and find out what’s happening, all while fighting a war against the sheriff who just so happens to peddling pharmaceuticals right under his nose. All in all, everything is about as far from order as can, and as the town descends deeper and deeper into a decadent and nonsensical revolution, any hope for redemption is becoming increasingly ridiculous.
If you haven’t read the first book and would like to start with this one, feel free to do so at your discretion. While Moore does reuse characters from his previous books as well as reference a few things, on the whole you don’t need to have read the earlier novels to understand this one. You’ll probably be able to laugh at a few more passages and feel closer to some of the people, but that’s about it.
A Trove of Black Humor and Absurdity
Those of you already familiar with the works of Christopher Moore should already know what the main course here will be: black humor. Moore delights in it tremendously and never passes up a chance to point and laugh at the tragic. Virtually all of the characters in this book go through trials and tribulations of their own, and while realistically-speaking some of them wouldn’t make for a laughing matter, Moore manages to twist it into the realms of comedy. There are lots of people that die in unexpected and funny ways as well as loads of raunchy absurdities that befall them. More often than not, the real meat of the story lies in seeing what fate ultimately befalls the many people we come across.
Speaking of the people, I’d say that this book has hands-down one of the most diverse casts you’ll ever find in a book. Every single character is unique and differentiated from the others in very obvious ways, all of them having major quirks and strong defining personality traits, giving them all an eccentric quality, especially Steve the giant lizard from the sea. This is the kind of story where the characters are used for more than the mere sake of advancing the plot; the unfolding of their destinies is just as much part of the adventure. Whether they are meant to be good or bad, the characters are all likeable for their sheer absurd qualities.
The Meaning of Decadence
Now, some of you might be wondering as to whether or not there is an overall purpose or meaning to this book, whether Moore meditates on some issues or tries to send some kind of a message. While I am certain that many of his thoughts on real-life topics made it in here, such as the monopoly of the pharmaceutical industry on our daily lives, I am quite convinced that he never intended for this to be a serious adventure. The story is filled with ridiculous decadence and even some topics which a few readers might find distasteful, with there being a decent amount of immoral eroticism to be found. While it’s all done in humorous fashion, I can definitely see how readers aversive to this kind of content would be turned off from it.
As the reader, I believe it is best to adopt the perspective that this is simply an adventure about having fun and letting go. One shouldn’t over-analyze anything or try to grasp for some kind of greater meaning. Instead, just sit back and enjoy the wild and crazy ride wherever it may take you, which in this case is a land where all sense of morality is becoming increasingly blurred.
The Final Verdict
It seems that Christopher has done it yet again, penning a novel far outside the limits imposed by rules and conventions. It’s a savage and unrelenting story that takes us to the very outer edges of surrealism and ridicule, exploring lands very few authors would ever dare venturing into. It’s a deeply-humorous book that offers a drastically different experience from virtually all the other novels out there, and if that’s the kind of insanity which attracts you, then I have to wholeheartedly recommend this book for you.