Book Review: Christopher Moore Island Of The Sequined Love Nun
If you were Tucker Case you'd be surprised too if someone offered you a job flying a private Lear jet. It's not too often you can crash a plane with an initiate into the mile high club sitting in your lap as you attempt to land, destroy the plane, cause bodily harm to the one straddling you, while your blood alcohol level is somewhere in the stratosphere and still be considered a viable choice for flying a few million dollars of private plane.
So Tucker is to be forgiven if he's a little suspicious of the offer, but at the same time he knows that short of hijacking a flight he won't be seeing the inside of a cockpit anywhere the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) have anything to say about the matter. With no other alternatives lining up, and a sudden need to leave the country (in the form of a civil suit filled by a certain young lady who most recently filled his lap and his plane's windshield)
That's how things go for Tucker Case; things happen to him without him taking much initiative. He had drifted into being a pilot through happening to meet someone. It was the same for getting the job flying the pink jet of The Mary Jean Cosmetic Company. That it was said jet he left in pieces on a runway made it all the more imperative that he leave the country. If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, hell's never met a pissed off corporate, Southern Belle Christian, make up executive who carries a Smith & Wesson in her handbag..
So Tucker doesn't even wonder that much about why a couple of Methodist missionaries need him to fly one a top of the line Lear jet from a mysteriously well financed compound on an isolated island in Micronesia. Of course in his travels to get to the island Tucker has run into a fruit bat named Renaldo who wears aviator shades and speaks Filipino, his cross dressing owner Kimi, Victor the ghost of a bomber pilot from World War Two who is worshipped as a God by the Shark people of the small atoll Alualu, caught in a typhoon in a small boat, almost eaten by sharks, and then almost eaten by the one Shark person who still thinks they should practice cannibalism, (Human's taste sort of like Spam) so he's got a little bit more on his mind when he first arrives then to wonder about his new bosses.
Some of you might have picked up a few clues by now, but for those who are like Tucker and content to just play along and hope things turn out okay, I'll let you in on the secret. This is just the opening salvo in the full side barrage of strangeness that Christopher Moore has in store for you in his 1997 novel Island Of The Sequined Love Nun.
Christopher Moore has specialized in writing bizarre stories where instead of having heroic characters that look danger in the eye and laugh at death, death is usually having a good laugh at his characters but has the decency to invite them to join in. Danger is something you would avoid if you could but the story wouldn't be half as good if there wasn’t any so the characters will just have to suck it up and cope as best as they can.
Yes I know that sounds like a strange thing to say about a novel and its writer, but what else can you say about an author who creates a story where islanders worship the pilot of a World War Two B-26 and the half naked woman painted on her nose cone as his representative on earth is The Sky Priestess.
Periodically The Sky Priestess will bring messages to the Shark people and bring them gifts of cargo from Victor. Of course occasionally she will have to punish them for some deviation from the true path and cut off their supply of People Magazineor take away their coffee supplies for a week or so. In exchange for this bounty periodically one of the Shark people are chosen, only to return ten days later with a mysterious scar running across their backs.
Of course we might think the islanders and Tucker are the biggest schmucks around for not cluing in as to what's going on, but than again neither do we until we learn all the facts. We may know that his employers are running some sort of scam on the natives, but we can't be sure what until Tucker finds the last clue.
Christopher Moore is probably one of the most optimistic writers I've ever read, but he's not blind to what the world is like. There are plenty of sick and twisted greed heads out there who have no problems with harvesting organs from the poorest and least educated people in the world. Well it's the only thing left that we haven't stolen from them yet so it really shouldn't come as a surprise.
Yet in spite of knowing that these types of people exist he also believes that if properly motivated others will do amazing things to help their fellow beings. So it seems perfectly logical that Tucker steals a 747 jet to rescue the islanders from the clutches of the good missionary and his wife and their plans to harvest all their internal organs.
People seem to get the impression that Christopher Moore is cynical and jaded. Look they'll say he is making fun of people's beliefs by having the Shark people treating People magazine like sacred texts. The truth of the matter is that while he may be saying that blind faith is silly and that you need to believe in more than material goods.
Kimi, the afore mentioned cross dresser and the ancient cannibal discover that they were both being trained in the art of being a Navigator. The ability to read the stars, call thunder and build the traditional outriggers canoes of the islands were all part of the duties and knowledge that the Navigator held. Moore presents these facts in the beautiful matter of fact manner that I've come to recognize as his hallmark of sneaking things into our hearts via our funny bone.
Island of the Sequined Love Num is outrageous, hilarious, bawdy, crude and a wonderful book about the need to have faith and to believe in something, even if it is only your own ability to do the right thing. Christopher Moore is a the master of writing a story that's as far from being a message book as you can get, and planting a message firmly in the reader's brain at the same time.