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    Title: Fluke ‘- Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings (317 pages)

    Author: Christopher Moore

    Published: 2003

    ‘ On the recommendation of a very close friend, I recently discovered a wonderfully gifted writer in Christopher Moore. The New York Times asks, ‘Where has this guy been hiding?’ on the front cover. Find me a more succinct compliment from that bastion of book criticism and I’ll be impressed. Fluke is a scientific, fantasy novel (not science fiction!), but as with many books that becomes old favorites, it’s not so much the subject matter as how it is presented that wins us over.

    Nate Quinn and Clay Demodocus are a pair of old farts doing research on humpback whales out in Hawaii. While Nate has acquired a DeMille-like sarcastic edge by this point in his life, Clay remains upbeat and keeps his partner afloat. The friendship between these two is well and economically composed. No words are wasted, but the description is still flavorful and insightful. Reuniting after being separated for some time, ‘They were both a bit embarrassed and both pretended that something was irritating their throats and they had to cough and pay attention to their breathing for a while, even though the air in the little submarine was filtered and humidified and perfectly clean.’

    Aside from utilizing description of the most primitive emotions to illustrate the connections between characters, Moore enacts several other literary tricks that are both comical and add considerably to the development of the story. The four main personalities in the story congregate at the beginning of the day and Moore illuminates the thoughts of each in turn:

    ‘It could calm down,’ Amy said. She was standing next to Kona, thinking, This guy’s pecks are so cut you stick business cards under them and they’d stay. And my, is he tan.

    [Nate was thinking], My life’s work is sh-t, and if we went out there today and I didn’t spend the morning retching over the side, I’d be tempted to drown myself.

    ‘Ya mon. Kona can spark up a spliff and calm down that bumpy brine for all me new science dreadies. We can take the boat no matter what the wind be,’ Kona said. He was thinking, I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but I really want to get out there with the whales.

    ‘Breakfast at Longee’s, and then we’ll see how it looks,’ Clay said. He was thinking, We’ll have breakfast at Longee’s, and then we’ll see how it looks.

    Moments like this make the story radiate meaning in several directions at once. Anyone can arrange such a device, of course, but reconnecting those vectors of significance later on in the tale require mastery of one’s craft. Moore is certainly a master, and Fluke is solid proof.

    The story takes a drastic turn from the scientific to the fantastic (and possibly even whimsical) at some point, and everything the reader knows is recast in a new light. By keeping us on our toes, Moore keeps us turning the pages. A healthy dosage of plot turning, combined with a witty, decisive writing style, makes Fluke great.

    So we have well-developed characters (Kona, a.k.a. Preston Applebaum, is my personal favorite), jokes that are actually funny (especially some of the Canadian ones), a good story (including a love interest, of course!), and an environmental message to boot. This last finds a passionate side of Moore that truly comes out of its shell in the Author’s Note. Just over three hundred pages of Fluke will seem to fly by; you won’t want them to run out.

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