Sunday, September 07, 2003

Review: "Fluke" by Christopher Moore

I came late to the humor of Christopher Moore. I'd never heard of him when I picked up his last book "Lamb," and all I can say is better late than never.

"Lamb" was easily the funniest book I've read in years. It left me lying on the floor with tears of laughter in my eyes. So I was eager for Moore's latest, "Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sing" ($23.95, William Morrow).

Nathan Quinn is a biologist working out of Hawaii who is completely obsessed with discovering the reason that humpback whales sing. He's been in pursuit of that holy grail of science for years, but this season, things are about to change.

First, his crew gets two new members - a flirtatious assistant named Amy who isn't really what she seems and a wanna-be Rastafarian surfer-dude named Kona who is actually a middle-class white kid from New Jersey. Along with the salty photographer Clay, they make an odd science team, but then, this is odd science.

Nate's obsession deepens when he spots a whale with strange fluke markings. Though he's reluctant to tell anyone, he could swear the whale's tail had writing on it - the words "Bite Me." His search, and Kona's unwitting aid, bring him closer than ever to discovering the true message in the whale song, but there are forces in the sea that don't want him to find it. He's about to meet them face to face.

"Fluke" is not as laugh-out-loud funny as "Lamb," but it's a whole lot weirder. The story requires some serious suspension of disbelief, but if you can do that, it's great fun.

As with "Lamb," Moore's characters in "Fluke" are colorful and interesting. You want to continue reading the book just to get to know them a little better and figure out what makes them tick.

In addition to the light-hearted nature of the story, there's also some good information about whales and whale research. Moore doesn't beat readers over the head with it in the story, but dedicates serious space at the end of the book to the real issues.

Though not quite as strong as "Lamb," "Fluke" still provided me with plenty of chuckles and a few good belly laughs. I've been converted. I'll be reading Moore from now on.

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