I’ve read two other Christopher Moore books, Lamb and The Stupidest Angel, and enjoyed them both. I am having feelings of disappointment about A Dirty Job. It had lovely moments, and if it didn’t have those lovely moments, I would hate this book. There are a few spoilers ahead.
As the book opens, Charlie Asher is becoming a new father, a widow, and weird stuff starts to happen. Charlie has become a death merchant – a collector of soul vessels. Not all people have a soul. When a person with a soul dies, their soul moves into an object of significance and then the next vessel for the soul will some how come across it and the soul will move in to a new body and continue learning from it’s mistakes. Death merchants help souls get to the next person, and keep the souls away from the forces of darkness. Death merchants are not Death – they do not cause people to die. Charlie is also raising a daughter with some disturbing abilities and canine companions, running a second hand shop, and having hijinks. He’s kind of a neurotic asshole. I liked him less and less as the book went on.
The lovely moments in the book come when Christopher Moore lingers on the joy and love that can co-exist with the dying process. Charlie loses his wife at the beginning of the book, witnesses the death of people as he comes to collect their soul vessels, and goes through the death of his mother with his sister Jane – one of the only likable and interesting characters in the book.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, You’re doing the same thing, trying to reconcile all the moms that Mom ever was – The one you wanted, the one she was when you needed her and she was there, the one she was when she didn’t understand. Most of us don’t live our lives with one, integrated self that meets the world, we’re a whole bunch of selves. When someone dies, they all integrate into the soul – the essence of who we are, beyond the different faces we wear throughout our lives. You’re just hating the selves you’ve always hated, and loving the ones you’ve always loved.
Unfortunately, the “hijinks” and musings on the Beta Male overwhelm the lovely moments. Maybe if I had read this when it was published in 2006 I would have been less annoyed by the Beta Male manifesto. In 2015, though, the Beta Male sounds too much like MRA drivel. It doesn’t help that there was a really icky bit with a character who starts as a teen and ends up offering pity sex to two much older, grosser male characters.
Both Lamb and The Stupidest Angel had wacky hijinks. But the wacky hijinks were balanced out by likable and interesting characters. I didn’t find Charlie likable or interesting. The other characters were mostly tics and accents.
I’m finding the process of writing the review as tedious and annoying as I found the book. So, don’t read A Dirty Job. Do read Lamb and The Stupidest Angel.