Tuck looked at the red-and-white pile on the ground at his feet and realized for the first time what it really was: a dead Santa.
–The Stupidest Angel
Ok, I’m cheating just the tiniest bit here on the annual children’s Christmas book post. The Stupidest Angel is most definitely not a children’s story (warnings for adult situations, language, zombies who want to eat brains and then go to IKEA, and rather mean things said about Santa, squirrel porn and perfectly innocent elephant seals). It also can’t exactly be called a classic yet given that it was only published back in 2004. But, it is a Christmas book, and frankly I needed something that took a slightly more cynical take on the holiday season this year even if that meant zombies, so, Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel it is.
The Stupidest Angel begins in Pine Cove, a fictional California town that Moore used as the setting of several previous novels. Several characters from previous books are still there, trying to survive the experience of having lived through a Moore novel: in other words, most of them are angry and not exactly in the Christmas spirit. The town, however, thrilled to get tourists, is doing what it can to celebrate the Christmas season: decorating, putting on little reindeer sweaters, cutting down Christmas trees, and planning the annual Christmas party. All of them, including estranged spouses Lena and Dale.
That is, Lena is stealing Christmas trees to give to poor underprivileged families in pure Robin Hood style, and Dale, who looks rather like Santa Claus, or at least an angry elf, is defending the Christmas trees, since these are the Monterey pines he planted as replacement trees for those he knocked down for housing developments. Which is more or less when seven year old Josh, who is about to lose all rights to Christmas FOREVER since he is not following basic rules, encounters them, and watches Lena kill Santa.
It’s a Very Sad Moment, even if Santa had just been caught using Very Bad Language.
Any thoughts that Lena might be able to get away with it are immediately crushed by the appearance of Tuck, who points out that the evidence—her very public fight with Dale the day before, her name written in Magic Marker on the handle of the murder weapon, and the fact that she really did kill him—is not exactly in her favor. Nonetheless, Tuck agrees to help her hide the evidence and the body, since anything is better than spending Christmas alone with a fruit bat.
Meanwhile, Theo the constable and his wife Molly are having their own issues: Theo really, but really, misses smoking weed, which he gave up for Molly’s sake, and Molly has temporarily given up her anti-psychotic medications in order to buy him a six hundred dollar bong for Christmas, which is leading to interesting effects. Which in turn leads to Theo doing rather a lot of weed, which, when you are a sheriff, can cause issues and make you think that the people you are interrogating have figured out that you are way way too high to be on the job when in actual fact they are just freaking out that you have figured out that they just murdered someone and covered up the body. And also meanwhile, other still living town citizens are having their own issues, including breakups and accusations that they are just a touch too interested in squirrel porn (well, technically that moment happens later in the book.) And this isn’t even getting into the complaints of the dead citizens.
Meanwhile meanwhile, a rather creepy looking dude, who might just be a not very intelligent angel, is wandering into bars in full daylight saying he needs a child. The bar’s patrons are ready to hit him on the head with a shovel.
Ok, technically, I’m not sure anything in this book is exactly merry. Laugh out loud funny, sure, and that’s before the fruit bat starts talking, but merry, no. I mean, sure, it has an angel who years back was supposed to do the Annunciation, but screwed up, but the angel is not exactly terribly good at his job and besides, zombies.
Zombies may not exactly be the first thing that jumps into anyone’s head when the word “Christmas” is spoken, but they work quite well in this novel, both as a metaphor for how about half the population feels on Christmas morning and as a way to reveal some of the town’s more interesting and amusing secrets. And I have to admit to feeling more than a sneaking touch of sympathy with and understanding of Raziel, the Stupidest Angel, who so completely is not up to the job of fulfilling a child’s Christmas wish and would rather just smite towns instead.
The Stupidest Angel may not be quite as heartwarming as its cover suggests, or, for that matter, as terrifying—the zombies crack far too many jokes to be really terrifying, and besides, an angel is wandering around, even if he is a fairly clueless angel not exactly good at the understanding wishes part. But if you are looking for an antidote to endless Christmas cheer, an antidote that, moreover, has some smart things to say about how people and couples, former and ongoing, act during Christmas, or just need something funny, this is definitely the Christmas book for you.
Mari Ness hopes you all have a wonderful holiday season filled with plenty of cookies, or, if it’s more your thing, zombies.