Revisiting Pine Cove at Christmas with Christopher Moore
For those of you who have already read the two previous books in the series, Christopher Moore’s fictional town of Pine Cove needs no introduction. For those of you new to it, however, it can be best described as a small Californian town prone to chaotic and supernatural events that eventually drive everyone into a state of totally surrealistic discord. It’s a place where madness finds a home, where immortal green demons (Practical Demonkeeping) and giant aquatic lizards (Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove ) are only part of the scenery and nothing more. And now, in the third book in the series titled The Stupidest Angel , having survived all these terrible and inexplicable ordeals the people of the town are not only still living in it, but are also preparing for Christmas which is only a week away. Needless to say, fate has other plans in store.
It’s quite difficult to encompass the plot of a Christopher Moore book in a few sentences while covering all the necessary ground, but here’s a valiant attempt anyways. Keeping it as basic as possible, little Joshua Baker experienced the magic of the holidays first-hand when he saw someone beat Santa Claus to death with a shovel. His one and only wish is for Santa to come back from the dead, at least by Christmas time. At the same time, the Archangel Raziel descends down upon Earth with a very specific mission: to grant the wish of a small child. While his efforts would be much-better spent in third-world countries, the Archangel naturally gravitates towards Pine Cove and sad little Joshua. However, the Archangel doesn’t turn out to be as wise as expected and spectacularly fails at his mission. Unfortunately, for the residents of Pine Cove, this failure means that total chaos and murderous supernatural entities are once again upon them. And so the question stands: will the residents find a way to get over all of this in time to get back to their Christmas celebrations?
The Town that Shouldn’t Change
With each and every book in the series I read, I find myself increasingly drawn to Pine Cove and the people in it, to the point where I’d say it’s one of my favourite settings for any kind of story. As before, the characters are the ones that really bring the place to life, all of them clearly distinguishable from each other and having their own layers of complexity to unravel. Even the smaller characters are described in such vivid and concise ways that you never have any trouble picturing anyone or remembering who they are. Descriptions are without a doubt one of the author’s main strengths as he carefully chooses the right words to titillate the desired senses and draw us into the story.
Once again, the town treats us to a very long series of ridiculous and surrealistic events that couldn’t take place anywhere else. There are many storylines around the city, each and every person having to deal with the ramifications of the Archangel’s failure in their own ways. Rest assured, Moore is more than capable of weaving multiple threads together, and he does so with great aplomb as all the plotlines culminate together on Christmas for a rather dramatic finale, even featuring some characters from his other unrelated works.
A Prose Fuelled by Imagination
The quality of the writing in this book is something which I believe deserves attention on its own. The prose is extremely consistent in its nature, with there being no superfluous or missing words anywhere. It really shows that Moore took his time to closely work on every single sentence to get the maximum impact out of exact words. As a result, the flow of the story is one of the smoothest I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing, and that’s not something easily accomplished with a novel that has multiple intersecting storylines and a ridiculous subject matter in itself.
Another notable consequence of the author’s mastery over words comes in the form of his ability to properly express his very unique brand of humour. It’s quite irreverent, self-aware and even crass at times, but it all fits perfectly within the context of the story. There aren’t any jokes which stood out during my reading as being of very bad taste, but I will warn you that you do need some sense of humour to appreciate this book and the occasional nonsense thrown your way. I mean, after all, it is a book about dumb angels and zombies amongst other things, so one can’t really expect it to be too serious. If you’re already familiar with the author’s brand of comedy, then I assure you that you’ll find some of his best material in spades here.
The Final Verdict
With all things being considered, The Stupidest Angel is very much a worthy addition to the Pine Cove series and I believe is a good introduction to Christopher Moore for those who haven’t had a chance to get acquainted with him yet. I believe this third book is the best of the series (so far at least) and feels more polished than the previous two entries while conserving the same power when it comes to the plot, setting and characters. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to embark on a roller-coaster into the domain of surreal comedy.