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THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH by Rick Moody Kirkus Star


by Rick Moody

Pub Date: July 28th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-11891-0
Publisher: Little, Brown

A rollicking romp through deep space and Arizona alike, improbable and thoroughly entertaining, courtesy of master storyteller Moody (Right Livelihoods, 2007, etc.).

Mash up Isaac Asimov with Thomas Pynchon, with dashes of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, and you begin to approach Moody’s madcap view on the world. His near-future tale opens in 2024 with a sad sack of a writer named Montese Crandall, who—shades of Twitterous tweets—has been perfecting the art of reducing an epic to a single line: “We went with the stealth bomber,” and “Last one home goes without anesthesia.” Crandall is quite proud of this, exulting, “I, Montese Crandall, M.F.A., write very short, very condensed literary pieces, and by short, I mean very, very short.” Well, the insiderish, self-referential joke’s on us, for Moody—or, better, Crandall—then proceeds to deliver a massive shaggy dog of a tale, a novelization based on an old 1960s grade-Z film called The Crawling Hand. (That film is real, and no one you’ve ever heard of, apart from maybe Alan Hale of Gilligan’s Island fame, is in it.) And why, of that hand, do only four fingers figure? Well, something has happened to the middle of them, along with the corporeal remains of a crew of astronauts unfortunately exploded over the Arizona desert on re-entry from Mars to Earth. Those four fingers make a lethal little package, however, creepy-crawling around and transmitting icky space sicknesses to the inhabitants of terra firma. Moody brings in dozens of characters major and minor, from a chimpanzee to a “fucking ridiculously hot girlfriend” to desert rednecks to astronauts and bureaucrats, and not a one of them wasted; as he gamely intertwines their destinies, he switches mood, voice, register and generally has a grand old time twitting the conventions of science fiction and literary narrative alike. It’s a big old goof, but punctuated by telling commentary about the direction society, the planet and literature are all going—which, suffice it to say, is not the ideal one.

A smart, fun satire—Jonathan Swift in space, with twists befitting Vincent Price.