Spoiler alert! This review reveals significant plot details.
Shall we start by agreeing that Christopher Moore is a literary comedic genius? I’ve had some good times with him. Both Fool and Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art are amazing, laugh-out-loud funny. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal is hilarious and irreverent and the perfect gift to give your atheist or agnostic friends (or your theist friends, if they have the right sense of humour!). Everyone once in a while, though I hit on a Fluke….
That’s the problem with comedy: it’s really tough, and even comedic geniuses don’t get it right all the time.
Bloodsucking Fiends has a lot going for it. I considered, for a while, giving this book one star—but I can’t do that, ultimately, because there was definitely a time where I was enjoying this book, maybe more than I should have. (For those who have read it: the scenes with the Emperor are all priceless, and the scene where the Safeway crew boards the vampire’s boat and start blowing shit up is high-octane of a calibre I was not expecting in a book like this.) In particular, if you were looking for a more humorous take on the whole “becoming a vampire” plot, then Moore has you covered here.
Jody and Thomas. I can’t even.
This is subtitled A Love Story, as are the sequels to this book (which I also have out from the library). The idea is that Jody, after becoming a vampire, looks for a man to cohabit with (and have sex with, if convenient) who can go out during the day, when she is asleep, and run errands. A sex-Renfield, if you will. (Oh God, now I’m envisioning all the Dracula/Renfield slash-fic I am not going to search for after finishing this review….)
Mr. C. Thomas Flood from Indiana has just moved to San Francisco to become the next Great American Writer. He hooks up with Jody by chance, sticks with her even after she confesses that she is a vampire, and quickly falls in love with her.
But I don’t really buy it, you know?
I can buy that Thomas thinks he’s in love with Jody, and that Jody feels co-dependent with Thomas. Moore paints Jody as the type of woman who feels that she “needs” a man, having lived with ten in the past five years. And I love that Moore doesn’t make this a head-over-heels, hit-by-Cupid’s-arrow type of romance—Jody and Thomas fight and argue and call each other names, and it’s all very realistic. (Except for the whole vampire thing, obviously.)
I find Jody’s characterization hugely problematic, though. There is nothing wrong, a priori, with portraying a woman who serially enters dysfunctional relationships. That’s all part of diverse portrayals of women in fiction. Unfortunately, that only works if you have diverse portrayals of women in your story (I think there are three named women characters in this book, and it only technically passes the Bechdel Test because Jody talks to her mom). And it only works if your characters are multi-dimensional.
I was hoping that, amid the standard Moore silliness of the plot, Bloodsucking Fiends would be a story about Jody’s personal growth. Moore starts off by showing us a woman who doesn’t have a lot going for her, who has a really bad day by being assaulted and transformed into a vampire, and who subsequently decides to make lemons out of lemonade. And on one level, this does actually happen. The ending of the story affirms Jody’s desire to embrace her newfound vampiric powers, to learn more about them, and to make the most of this life.
So I just wish Moore hadn’t ruined what might have been a great thing by falling back on clichéd jokes, like, “I could stand to lose five pounds.” We get it: women are obsessed with their weight! Hah-hah, very funny. I’ll pencil in a laugh sometime next week.
This sense of cliché looms ominously over most of the book. Jody is a walking cliché. Thomas’ situation—growing up in Indiana and being suspected of homosexuality because he has intellectual tendencies—is so cliché. It’s as if Moore assembled a checklist of the most overused tropes, then proceeded to work his way down the list—maybe alphabetically? Boy, those Asian people—aren’t they funny? And people who can’t read and hide it—hilarious! What about sales clerks—they sure are jerks, right? This might be comedy, but it is lazy comedy, thoughtless comedy—in other words, bad comedy.
I know Moore is capable of, well, more. You can’t write two novels parodying Shakespeare to the level that Moore has without actually reading and understanding Shakespeare. And while Moore’s portrayal of women doesn’t receive highest marks, I’ve seen him do better than how he does in Bloodsucking Fiends.
Oh, but the whole part where Thomas literally fridges Jody? Then does it again by bronzing her? That’s not funny, Moore, and it’s not endearing. It’s terrifying and sick, and it doesn’t show that Thomas “loves” Jody, just that he’s obsessed with her and willing to imprison her rather than let her go. We have names and prisons for those sorts of people.
I’m going to try the next book, because Moore has earned a lot of credit with me. But if Thomas pulls anything like that again, I’m out of here. I have better things to do with my time than watch an insecure guy try to stop his vampire ladyfriend from leaving her in progressively creepier and rapier ways.