Christopher Moore: Practical Demonkeeping

Jun 20, 2015

I’ve really enjoyed The Incomparable podcast since the very first episode because it discusses a lot of fantasy/sci-fi topics. Episodes I like the most are about books and one of those is #171 Pirate Politics (A Winter Reading List) (and not just for it being a draft).

As the title implies, the goal of the episode was to suggest some reading material for the upcoming winter (the episode aired in November 2013). I’m far from reading all the books on the list, but I’ve picked up some of them. Namely Phases of Gravity by Dan Simmons, Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie, The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore.

I read Phases of Gravity but the book didn’t really grab me. Ancillary Justice on the other hand was an exciting and assumptions challenging ride which I loved. The book received a lot of acclaim and already has a sequel Ancillary Sword, coincidentally discussed in the episode #251 Tea, Sandwiches, and Mushrooms. So far, I’ve read only the first novel from The Deptford Trilogy. The book is rather long and written in a very verbose prose reminiscent of the time when the story takes place, i.e. the first half of the 20th century, but makes it a rather difficult read. However, I liked it and I’ll read the second novel as soon as it becomes available in the library (which it never will, because the only instance was lost after I booked it).

He was a biologist, held a Ph.D. in animal behavior from Stanford, so it was with great academic credibility that he opened the door and winged the boot at his dog, following it with the behavior-reinforcing command of: “Skinner, shut the fuck up!”

Christopher Moore: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

The Lust Lizard of the Melancholy Cove is a comic novel depicting a sleepy town of Pine Cove which faces a sudden burst of activity caused by a prehistoric sea-beast awakened from its sleep by an aphrodisiac taste of a nuclear leak from a nearby power plant. The sea-beast comes ashore searching for a mate, humps a gas tank, causes an explosion and exudes pheromones which provoke lust in the citizens of the town.

It was as if she were running a kennel for hopeless horndogs rather than a psychiatric practice.

Christopher Moore: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

The novel is simply fun. It’s not just about simple jokes and gags and carries a bit of a depth. The cast of characters is varied but they all come together at the end. Moore has a unique style with crazy descriptions and outlandish metaphors which might cause uncontrollable laughter even in public spaces.

Surfers don their wetsuits against the chill of storm waves and white sharks adjust their diets to include shrink-wrapped dude-snacks on fiberglass crackers.

Christopher Moore: The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove

Several Moore’s novels are linked by taking place in Pine Cove but they don’t form a tight series, which would make sense only together. The Lust Lizard is actually the second one. Since it’s been some time since I read it and I got a taste for something light and fun, I decided to try the first book Practical Demonkeeping.

Demonkeeping was published seven years before The Lust Lizard as Moore’s very first novel and it tells. I was expecting the same funny ride and even though there very some hints of it, I could feel that his style was not mature yet. The structure and basic premise is very similar. Pine Cove is visited by an invisible demon kept on a leash by hundred year old man and starts snacking on the locals. The demon is being followed by a king of the Djinn, whose task is to banish the demon to hell; in order to complete the task he recruits a local shopowner/wine enthusiast. The demon’s snacking creates a huge gap in the local drug distribution chain, puts a career of an undercover cop on the line, costs a life of few innocent bystanders and brings together two couples. Moore switches between several viewpoint characters who come together in an absurd demon hunt.

‘You have seen the prowler?’ ‘Yes, outside my window, in the woods.’ ‘Can you describe him?’ ‘He is an abomination of such abysmal hideousness that the mere recollection of this monstrosity perambulating in the dark outside my domicile fills me with the preternatural chill of the charnel house.’ ‘That would be about how tall?’

Christopher Moore: Practical Demonkeeping

Seen from a higher level, it’s the same book, but the style isn’t fully there yet. I can imagine that someone reading it in the chronological order might see it differently, but I was a little bit disappointed. Numerically speaking, the ratio of passages I highlighted is 8:18 in favor of The Lust Lizard. I’d recommend it only to completists who don’t need any recommendation anyway.

Slowly and gently, Augustus Brine explained to the king of the Djinn about the illusion created by motion pictures. When he finished, he felt like he had just raped the tooth fairy in front of a class of kindergartners.

Christopher Moore: Practical Demonkeeping