Cameos and insider references

Jaquandor has posted a review of the one Christopher Moore novel that I haven't read (aside from his just recently published book), The Stupidest Angel. He can't quite bring himself to recommend it, however:
    The problem with that is that I can't recommend reading The Stupidest Angel unless one has also read the previous Moore novels Practical Demonkeeping, The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Island of the Sequined Love Nun and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. The Stupidest Angel recycles characters from each of these novels.

    Now, reading those books really isn't essential to understanding what's going on in Angel; the book does work, I suspect, as a standalone. However, there's a "vibe" that the book takes on by virtue of my being familiar with the characters already. There's a subtext, for example, in the somewhat antagonistic relationship between Theophilus Crowe and Tucker Case that one won't realize if one hasn't read the novels in which they appeared before. Not essential, as noted, but still pleasurable.
This hasn't always been a trend in his works (well, duh, how could it on his first book), but the first time I noticed it was in Lamb, when the demon from Practical Demonkeeping made an extended cameo. Now, it seems, that cameos are becoming more and more interwoven into every new story.

I'm about 100 pages into his recently published A Dirty Job (good so far), and already 3 characters from Bloodsucking Fiends have made extended cameos, and may very well be a part of the plot. As the tale is set in San Francisco, where BSF took place, and based on the nature of the story, the crossovers make sense. Of course, I am a huge (huge) fan of BSF, so I was quite titillated to see some of the characters appear. However, the way it is written will certainly confuse those unfamiliar with the work.

For instance, Jody, the redheaded vampire lead from BSF, is not mentioned by name, but you know it is her based on the description and mannerisms (and her trademark 'fuck-me pumps'). In fact, it isn't even clearly implied that she is a vampire in the book. Additionally, one of the detectives from BSF appears, but his motives and goals are never defined. You know he's on the trail of the vampire, but it is never implied. Again, unless you know the character and the history, you'd be rather confused about the whole interchange.

Personally, I rather enjoyed the appearances, because I'm so familiar with Moore's earlier work. But, I don't think it is essential to the enjoyment of the book. We're only talking about a few pages so far, and they are just cameos. Well, really, they are in-jokes for the well-read, and I get a little snide glee knowing exactly who those characters are. In short, you don't need to read the previous works to appreciate and enjoy the book, but you won't enjoy it as much as I do. So there.

UPDATE: Thanks to the intrepid habits of Melissa, I've been given an early birthday present. According to a recent interview with Chris Moore, looks like my favorite book is about to get a sequel:
    Q: Back to horror, you've resurrected Safeway night manager Tommy Flood and Jody, the accidental vampire, in the upcoming You Suck: A Love Story. What made you decide on a sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends?
    I wrote the original book with the idea of a sequel in mind ten years ago, but my publisher at the time didn't have the confidence in the first book to publish it well, so it languished. (Which is why I changed publishers.) Frankly, it's taken me this long for my career to recover to a point where I could write a sequel to Fiends. This book should have been written ten years ago.

    Q:You Suck picks up right where Bloodsucking Fiends left off almost ten years ago. Was it challenging to pick up the story in a city that has changed since then?
    It was, and I worried about that for some time, but then I sat in on a meeting of a book club in San Francisco who had just read Fiends. They knew the city and they knew the book, and although the city has changed, they suggested that I just ignore the change. Go forward as if it was the next day. So I did.
Suffice to say, I am very excited.


maggiemay said...

Just finished "A Dirty Job" last night and loved it! I haven't read all of BSF - don't judge - I could tell that there were some inside jokes that I was missing, but it was still great.

Bt the way, his next book is the BSF sequel "You Suck: A Love Story".

Matthew said...

You are not allowed to tantalize without citing a reference. In short: how do you know?

maggiemay said...

If you go to: http://www.chrismoore.com/interviews.htm

Click on the first interview, it's very funny and has the information about the sequel.