Christopher Moore is almost as funny as Terry Pratchett, and believe me, that is some of the highest praise I can give. Both share a whimsical and ironic sense of humour that makes me laugh until I cry, even in public. Also, both Pratchet and Moore have a great way of making everything even death seem funny. In ‘Discoworld’, Death is a skeleton with a scythe. In Moore’s universe death is a geeky, single dad owning a thrift store in San Francisco.
The book opens with Charlie Asher losing his wife in childbirth and being left to care for their baby daughter Sophie alone. Charlie is not given much time to adjust to his bereavement before he discovers that he has been made a death merchant. That is, when a person dies, their souls enters an object they hold dear, and it is Charlie’s job to obtain this soul vessel and ensure the soul moves on to its next life. A soul could end up in anything, from a CD to breast implants. But wherever the soul goes Charlie has to retrieve it. If he does not do this, weird things start to happen (seriously weird, we are talking giant squirrels in ballerina skirts, voices from the sewer). We get to follow Charlie as he attempts raising his daughter, prevent his sister from stealing his expensive suits, battle creatures from the underworld with a sword cane, try to get laid and dealing with his shop employees (Ray, an ex-cop who suspects Charlie of being a serial killer and is desperate for love) and Lilly (a teenage goth-girl who would love to be death’s minion).
I loved Charlie. He is a beta-male with a hyper active imagination and neurotic par excellence. You just have to love a guy who packs a stove and a fire extinguisher in his wife’s hospital bag. He is that geeky guy who makes references and jokes about Twilight Zone and Horatio Hornblower. He also tries his best to care for little Sophie although we soon learn that there is something really strange about that baby. For example, every single one of the little girl’s pets just drop die. I repeat: every… single… pet… It does not matter daddy buys fish, cockroaches, turtles – they all die. Something is up with that baby.
Although the book was funny, I cannot give it full points. The sense of humour in the book is sort of cartoonish. When things are as cartoonish as they are in this book it is difficult to care about the supporting characters as they have very little depth (per definition they are two-dimensional). So ,when Charlie begin fighting against the end of the world, I could not say I was particularly invested in the outcome.
But still, it gave me a good laugh, and after all, this book does have a nice message: death might not be pleasant, but it isn’t necessarily something evil; it is but dirty job that has to be done.