I’ve enjoyed Christopher Moore’s books for years, starting with The Island of the Sequined Love Nun, which I bought largely because of the title and an Amazon recommendation. Since then, I’ve bought all of his other books and enjoyed all of them, although Lamb was frequently aggravating, but at least thought provoking.
So I was happy to receive a copy of his latest in the mail: Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings as a gift from my sister. The first half of the book is as enjoyable as anything he’s written, but it all kind of came apart at the end. In retrospect, I would have enjoyed the book more if he’d just stopped 2⁄3 of the way in, even with the gaping unresolved plot holes. The last few chapters required way too much suspension of disbelief, and even once that was achieved, I had a hard time following what was supposed to be happening.
The book tells the story of Nathan Quinn, a humpback whale researcher in Maui. He’s spent most of his life studying the humpback’s song, trying to find meaning in their slowly changing notes. Every spring, the humpbacks (megaptera novaeangliae, or roughly “the great wing of new england”–hence the “winged whale” in the title) return to Maui to calve, swimming thousands of miles and spending months at a time without food. There are a number of mysteries about the humpback’s song–why do only the males sing, who are they singing to (other males in Maui? Whales on the other end of the ocean?), why do the whales all sing the same basic song every year?
Fortunately or unfortunately, the book answers the question, but only in the very end, after a rollercoaster ride across the pacific. Before the ride began, we got to meet a great cast of characters, like Kona, their white rasta hawaiian native jewish boat washer from New Jersey–even he couldn’t keep track of which accent he was supposed to be using half of the time. The story was moving right along until the author decided to pull out the “magic happens here” card and the entire book disintegrated into a pile of stinking whale vomit. Which is a shame, because it was a great book right up to that point.