Christopher Moore,
(HarperCollins, 2003)

Cetacean biology has never looked like this!

Christopher Moore, whose writing subjects have wandered from sympathetic vampires to black-market organ smugglers and a complete reworking of the gospels, tackles the science of whales in his latest novel, Fluke. Nate Quinn and Clay Demodocus are an observational scientist and underwater photographer, respectively, studying the habits of humpback whales in the waters off Hawaii. Specifically, they are trying to crack the code of whalesong, the meaning of which has eluded scientists for generations (while making a mint for new-age musicians).

But one whale makes communication a bit more comprehensible with a rude remark mysteriously attached (tattooed?) to its tail. Another seems to be phoning in sandwich orders. The science team is perplexed. And then a member of the team gets eaten by a humpback, and everyone knows a humpback's throat is too small to swallow a person even if it wanted to, which it typically doesn't....

Fluke is laugh-aloud funny and has a strong plot that will keep you guessing. There are also plenty of winning characters supporting the story, from the Old Broad who lives on a volcano to the Rastafarian stoner from New Jersey and, of course, Amy, who's just so damned cute. Don't even get me started on the questionable antics of the whaley-boys or the accommodating Goo!

There are lots of humor writers out there who base their work -- sometimes all of their work -- on a single gimmick. Christopher Moore has the gift for writing outstanding novels that are distinct, clever, intelligent and thoughtful -- and also happen to stimulate your internal laugh track without pause. (It boggles the mind to consider just how much actual science, as well as seamanship, Moore learned before writing this book!)

Fluke stands alone, for anyone who's never cracked the spine of Moore's work -- but, if that's the case, I trust it'll be the first of many. Longtime fans will find this another excellent addition to Moore's peculiar, hilarious world.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 17 May 2003

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