Contemporary fantasy and New Age fiction take another good-natured licking in Moore’s ninth, which bears strong resemblances to his Practical Demonkeeping (1992) and Bloodsucking Fiends (1995).
It’s set in San Francisco, where mildly nerdy thrift-shop proprietor Charlie Asher experiences unprecedented stages of grief after his wife Rachel gives birth to their daughter Sophie, then dies. The presence at Rachel’s bedside of a tall black man wearing green hospital scrubs foreshadows appearances by people who give off a reddish glow just before expiring, leading Charlie to confront the tall black man (named, for no particular reason, Minty Fresh), who explains that Charlie has (like Fresh himself) become a “Death Merchant,” assigned “to retrieve soul vessels” from the dead and dying, and convey them to new host bodies. Okay, this seems plausible. But plots thicken as Charlie undertakes (so to speak) his new duties, aided and abetted and abused by his Punk Goth teenaged store-clerk Lily, his take-charge lesbian sister Jane, his ethnic tenants Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Korjev, the self-proclaimed homeless Emperor of San Francisco (on loan from Bloodsucking Fiends) and precociously paranormal Sophie, who exhibits Herculean toddler powers, while being guarded by two gigantic slavering “Goggies” (actually, they’re “hellhounds”). Complicating matters are Dark Forces that congregate in sewers, drive a vintage Cadillac and threaten to make dying even more unpleasant by unleashing chaos and Armageddon and all that stuff. Charlie retrieves his lost sex life and, having become a “Luminatus” with a killer workload, maintains universal order, thanks to the Emperor and the “squirrel people” (don’t ask), and a climactic shoot-out provoked when a black ship of death sails into Frisco Bay. The lunacy is appealing, but the book, alas, is way, way too long.
Not quite to die for, then, but one of the antic Moore’s funniest capers yet.