Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Christopher Moore regales us with a strange and very unusual story that takes us into the heart of a small-time American town in California. Little do its idiosyncratic citizens suspect, their lives are about to be turned upside down and inside out with the arrival of a young man in his 20s, who 70 years ago made a pact with a demon to become an immortal… a demon that remains with him to this very day. Though the reluctant master can sometimes control the demon, the latter becomes more erratic as he gets hungrier… and what better buffet for a demon than a town full of people?
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The Impracticality of Demonic Immortality According to Christopher Moore
Christopher Moore has garnered a reputation for himself as a witty and imaginative author who strays from the beaten path and tries to bring us something unique and original with every book he writes. Today he has developed his style into something quite concrete and polished, but it’s always interesting to go back in time a little and see how those authors began what turned out to be prolific careers… and in this case it all started with Practical Demonkeeping, his very first published work and start of a Pine Cove trilogy.
Confirming his offbeat style right off the bat, Moore takes us into a small Californian town populated by a number of idiosyncratic denizens whose lives are eventful, but still more or less normal. Or at least they were, until the arrival of Travis and Catch in town. The former is a 20-year-old young man who, seventy years ago, received the gift (or is it a curse?) of immortality. The latter, Catch, is a big green demon that loves to feast on human beings. The two were bound by the Seal of Solomon seven decades ago, and neither knows how to break it, something they would love to do as their bond is becoming tiresome for the both of them.
For the moment, Travis manages to keep catch strictly on a diet of criminals, but as the demon grows hungrier he becomes harder and harder to control… and in front of him is an entire little town filled with tasty little people, a better buffet than any demon could wish for. And so, we witness the strange struggle faced in this tiny microcosm of the universe as an immortal master tries his best to keep his human-eating immortality-dealing demonic pet under control… and unbeknownst to them, an old genie is joining the mayhem.
Staying Off the Beaten Track
As you can already tell from that very brief summary, Practical Demonkeeping is not your average kind of book and is a bit difficult to define in terms of genre. There are many elements at work here, namely comedy and horror, often complementing each other but never straying outright in either direction. The atmosphere is an ever-shifting one depending on the scene and strives to put the reader through the entire spectrum of emotions.
We laugh, cry, wonder, get surprised, confused, tense, relaxed… in short, it’s a rollercoaster ride that differentiates itself from the rest of literature due to the fact that Christopher Moore didn’t seek to restrict himself to one particular genre. Now, I have to say that having this smorgasbord of themes and feelings doesn’t exactly always work out in the book’s favor, as a few scenes feel either sudden, out of place, or just plain confusing.
If you think anyone is sane you just don’t know enough about them.―Christopher Moore, Practical Demonkeeping
Neither of those three things occurs often by any stretch of the imagination, but be prepared to devote a bit more effort and concentration than usual to understanding the story itself, which as you might imagine, seldom veers into cookie-cutter territory. Moore knows how to keep on surprising his readers, always coming up with news ways of developing the story, ones we can hardly come to expect or predict.
While they don’t always make the most amount of sense, they fit well with the plot and the overall ambiance of ridiculousness, only accentuated by the extremely varied and off-beat cast. Every character it seems is in some kind of strange pursuit of happiness with no course of action being too weird for them.
A Lighthearted Ride of Mythology and Pop Culture
There are authors out there who excel at mixing their own miscellaneous knowledge into their stories to lend them an additional dimensions through which they can share with the readers, educate them and ramp up the entertainment factor. That’s definitely the case with Moore as he mixes in a hearty dose of his own pop culture as well as mythological knowledge, creating parallels and helping to establish some connections between our world and that of the book.
With that being said, I don’t believe that Moore ever intended to go deeply into meditations or the education of his audience in any way. In terms of philosophical food for thought, well let’s just say it’s no Crime and Punishment and the author thought it much more important to entertain us with his quirkiness instead of reflecting on any kind of topic.
However, I don’t see that as a negative at all for not every novel can benefit from a more introspective approach, and I believe that Practical Demonkeeping would have been ruined by it. This was meant to be more of a comedic and lighthearted ride with some serious moments, intended to give the reader a fresh and unique piece of literature to chew on.
|256||William Morrow Paperbacks||May 25 2004||978-0060735425|
The Final Verdict
Having looked at everything, I think we can safely say that Christopher Moore‘s debut is certainly one worth exploring, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a fan of the author. It’s a completely original story with a strange atmosphere of quirky comedy, populated by a vivid cast of memorable characters that will make the weirdos in your life seem quite charming.
In whole, it’s a fun and unique experience that serves as a very worthy start to not only the trilogy, but also the career of an author who should definitely be more celebrated… I greatly recommend Practical Demonkeeping for those looking for something original, humorous and laid-back.
Everything is a story. What is there but stories? Stories are the only truth.―Christopher Moore, Practical Demonkeeping
Christopher Moore is an American writer who primarily specializes in comedic fantasy novels. He has written numerous series such as The Pine Cove Books (Practical Demonkeeping; The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove), Vampires in San Francisco (Bloodsucking Fiends; You Suck) and the Death Merchant Chronicles (A Dirty Job; Secondhand Souls).
Among his awards are the 2005 Quill Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, the 2006 Quill Award for General Fiction, and the 2010 Goodreads Choice Awards Best Humour.