Book Critique - Island of the Sequined Love Nun
Stars: 4 / 5
Recommendation: A bumbling comic plot that takes readers on a crashing flight journey only to land into the island with dark secrets and wicked ambitions coming at a cost to human lives.
Island of Sequined Love Nun is the fourth book by American absurdist author, Christopher Moore, first published in August of 1997. Per the author, it is partly based on his experiences while he was living in Micronesia.
A friend of mine, Patty, had suggested that I should read this and that I would enjoy it. Although I was hesitant to pick this book, I took her word for it, since she had suggested good books in the past. And it ended up being a good read.
Our bumbling hero is Tucker "Tuck" Case, who is a pilot for Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation. On one of his flights from Seattle flying the "pink jet", he crash lands it while having a drunken liaison with a girl he picks up at the bar. To escape from the wrath of Mary Jean Dobbins, he accepts the job of piloting a Lear 45 for a doctor in a remote island, Alualu, in New Guinea, to fly medical supplies. And his troubles are just beginning.
Moore gives us not only a bumbling hero but also one who has no strong resolve or a stiff spine when especially around women, and also thinks mostly with his part below the belt. It irritated the heck out of me as a reader. Cause I wanted him to stand up for once. I was this close to write him off, when Moore suddenly brings out the much needed strength in him, even though Tuck still teeters on the edge.
As an absurdist author, one would not expect anything less from Moore, other than giving us the most absurd of the situations in the lives of his everyman characters. He takes us on a ride through island hopping in the Micronesia to the cargo cults to medical experiments to murders and spirts from other world.
Despite the humor that Moore highlights all through, a dark thread weaves in too. A dark thread that shows how humans can cheat innocents, how the so-called superpowers take advantage, and how the megalomaniacs make fools out of simple people. A dark thread that throws light on blind beliefs combined with ambitions to rule, a toxic combination that could cause downfall; the profits that people see in humans rather than feelings.
Moore titles every chapter of the book with a comic line that has something to do with the scene he would spin in that chapter. He also divides the book into parts and titles the parts - Part One titled "The Phoenix", where we see the rise of Tucker Case from the crash he had; Part Two titled "Island of the Shark People", aptly titled when the readers get introduced the Shark People and their lives on the island Alualu; Part Three titled "Coconut Angel", a title that made little sense until I finished the book.
Don’t go by the book of the cover or the title, I would say. Give it a few chapters in and the plot suddenly becomes interesting and nerve-wrecking at times. Moore spun a successful plot that takes readers from crash landing to comic reliefs to dark underbellies of human minds to the innocent island people. A very good read.
1. Plot Reveals:
a. Jake is instrumental in throwing Tuck literally at the doorstep of the High Priestess. Probably working for Mary Jean, although it isnt explicitly mentioned.
b. Kimi and Sepie have a relationship.
a. Employers that Tuck serves: Mary Jean Dobbins, owner of Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation; Beth Curtis, High Priestess of the Shark People in the island of Alualu; Dr. Sebastian Curtis, Sorcerer of the Shark People & husband to Beth.
b. The Shark People: Malink, the high chief; Sarapul, the cannibal; Sepie, a mispel; Abo; Favo; Japanese Ninjas - Mato, Yamata;
c. Other people we come across in the plot: Kimi, ship navigator; Jake Skye, Tuck's only friend; Dusty Lemon, Mary Jean's goon; Rindi, a cab driver; Jefferson Pardee, editor-in-chief of Truk Star in the island of Truk; Ignatho Malongo, governor's assistant; Commander Brion Frick, Australian Navy; Vincent Bennidetti, pilot of the plane The Sky Priestess; Malcolme, Kimi's pimp.
d. Some of the books, places and media Moore mentions along the plot:
i. Tucker Chase had participated in the Death of a Salesman play in third-grade.
ii. Tuck had once watched a Spencer Tracey's movie where he battles a shark with a knife attached to an oar. I think the movie is 1958 film The Old Man and the Sea.
iii. The High Priestess has a taste for Glenn Miller's songs such as "String of Pearls", "In the Mood", "Pennsylvania 6-5000" and "Moonlight Serenade". She also has Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing".
iv. Sarapul likes the comic version of The Count of Monte Cristo book.
v. Vincent sounded like one of the characters from the Bowery Boys movies that were released from 1946 through 1958.
3. Grammatical / Character / Location / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:
a. On Pg. 35, Line 6 from bottom, shouldn’t it be "…Tuck followed him…"?
b. On Pg. 115, Line 25, it should be "…someone else's possession…"
c. All through the first part of the book, "The Phoenix", Moore refers Beth Curtis as The High Priestess of Alualu island. However, suddenly since the second part, "Island of the Shark People", she is referred to as The Sky Priestess. Did Moore forget his original name?
d. On Pg. 175, Line 18, it should be "…just thought you…"