Recently I re-read one of my favorite Christopher Moore novels for the 26 Books to Read in 2015 reading challenge. I just finished the sequel, Secondhand Souls, and I loved it just as much as the first. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, zany, weird, and sweet.
Back again in San Francisco shortly after the events of A Dirty Job, the souls of the recently deceased are going missing. The Death Merchants, those responsible for passing along the soul vessels of the dead to their next stop on the karmic journey, aren’t collecting souls any longer. On the Golden Gate bridge, ghosts are beginning to appear. And Charlie Asher, our hero from the first book, has his soul trapped in a piece of taxidermy.
Where A Dirty Job focused on death, grief, and coming to terms with mortality, Secondhand Souls has moved on to a discussion of the nature of the soul and the cosmic journey. A lot of the poignancy in this one comes from the movement of souls, the power of intimate connection across time, and the idea of moving along the path of life and death.
Alongside a banshee wielding a taser. A mysterious man in a lemon-yellow suit with car to match. A precociously foul-mouthed seven-year-old Luminatus. And Wiggly Charlie. Oh, Wiggly Charlie.
Readers who don’t like sex jokes, strong language, and sexual references might be put off by Moore’s sense of humor, but those who do like their comedy on the bawdier, blacker, and zanier side will find a lot to like. Moore is fantastic with character voices and setting a scene. The quick back and forth of his dialogue and his deft and clever descriptions are almost cinematic, and the pace is quick everywhere except where Moore wants you to take some time to think (the funeral scene midway through the book is a good example).
Those elements are a wonderful counterpoint to the real depth and heart behind it all. These characters, crazy as they and their circumstances might be, still always manage to come across as real, dimensional people, never merely joke-delivery-systems. Each character has stakes (emotional and physical), each one has relationships and motivations in regard to everyone else. There are some supernatural elements and references to mythology and concepts of death and dying from many different cultures. Minty Fresh fans will be pleased to hear this story becomes his by the end, and there’s even a nod to an early Christopher Moore novel, Coyote Blue. The Squirrel People are also given a bit more to do this time around.
If you’re after a black comedy about the nature of death and of the soul, about love and friendship, and about cheese sticks, you might want to give this one a look. Those who loved A Dirty Job don’t want to miss this one.
I just realized that under my new cheating-is-totally-allowed protocol I can double-dip! Secondhand Souls was a book from the library! I stayed a couple minutes late at work one day to finish cataloging it so that I could take it home. There, I’ve covered #23 for the 26 Books to Read in 2015 Challenge! Boom.