After spending a month in Portland on the set of Something Like Summer, which entailed long hours, little sleep, and generally other things that prevented me from sitting down and reading, I now have the time to get back doing what I love most –reading!
Once again, the creative Christopher Moore returns to San Francisco in this long-awaited sequel to 2006’s A Dirty Job. Secondhand Souls picks up a year after the last book, with the forces of evil regulated back into the sewers of the city that also cost the life of our hero, Beta-male Charlie Asher. But the balance between good and evil is a precarious one, and since Asher’s death, most of the other Death Merchants –folks who collect the souls of the dead so they can be moved onto other soulless folks- have stopped doing their jobs. And now, after a year, the results of those souls not being collected begin to manifest themselves –mostly in the form of ghost hanging out on the Golden Gate Bridge. Then there is the arrival of a banshee who begins to warn folks like cops Rivera and Cavuto of some impending doom (who also steals –in one of the most inspired bits- a taser gun from the cops and who wields it with demented glee). With so many unretrieved souls, the banshee notes, a new (old) power darker than previously known begins to rise. So the gang, including the homeless crazy man The Emperor of San Francisco, his trusty solider dogs Lazarus and Bummer, Minty Fresh, Lily, and a resurrected Charlie Asher (long story that entails one of few newcomers to this story, a painter of the bridge) must face this evil. Then there is the Squirrel-People and 7-year-old Sophie Asher, a.k.a. the Big Death, who can kill anything by merely uttering the word “kitty.”
So while it may not be totally necessary to have read A Dirty Job, it does help immensely that you have, but it will not stop you from enjoying this wonderful, expletive-ridden, laugh out loud look at life and death. The book is crammed with Moore’s typical surreal off-the-wall humor, one-liners and a diverse group of outcasts that would feel safe in a Tim Burton movie. Much like his vampire novels –Bloodsucking Fiends, Bite Me, and You Suck –all set in the same city and universe- A Dirty Job and Secondhand Souls are good primers for new readers looking for a funny, light book that reminds us that not all supernatural tales come with a bloated back-story.
I was hoping –and it may still happen, but logic dictates it won’t- to reach 52 books read in a year. This one represents number 34, and number 35 begins shortly. Still, the month off of reading will really put that goal in jeopardy. And I’m fine with that, really. And to be honest, while it was a personal goal for me, in the grand scheme of life, it means little. It’s not like I can spin my love of reading into a financial gold (as I once hoped to do), not in this day an age when many thing reading Tweets and People Magazine constitutes “reading”.
I know that reading is a solitary thing, unsocial in some ways. But I’ve come to the conclusion that this is my lot in life. I work, I read, I eat, I sleep. Wash, rinse and repeat. It’s a lonely life, but one I chosen, so there in no one left to blame but me.
And I guess, in the end, I wouldn’t want any other way. Well, except spending countless hours on a movie set. I kind of dig that.