Cute premise, aggravating execution. Moore takes a regular Joe and has him unexpectedly recruited by one of death’s assistants (it’s akin to a franchise position, albeit an unwilling one), passing souls on from one bodily home to the next. He adds in demons and goddesses, Tibetan monks, bubble-burping hell-hounds, and beautiful, large-breasted women. Male characters are reasonably dimensional, but the female characters don’t benefit from the same “fleshing out”. Moore describes them physically; in general they are stunningly gorgeous. The only unattractive women are two grandmotherly characters in the supporting cast, and apparently Charlie’s neighbours. We would know if they were drool-worthy, because Charlie would be drooling over them. To Moore, that’s just how some guys are. Eye contact and coherent conversation are too much to ask when a particular type of man is face-to-chest with a hot chick. I appreciated that Moore made his hero almost the polar opposite of a standard hero; Charlie is so anxious he’s almost neurotic; but I could have done without the slut shaming and gratuitous literary boob shots. There’s even one instance of pity sex. It was obviously included just for titillation as it didn’t further the story in any way. Moore seemed baffled by representing a mature woman who is comfortable with sexual desire. Either it was pity sex, done wholly for the man, or it was so out of the blue the desire presumably behind it felt fabricated. Very much an instance of “women are mysterious creatures, who knows what makes them tick?”
On the upside, Moore does include a range of skin colour and sexuality. Not a big range, to be sure, but better than nothing at all. Considering that this story includes reanimated squirrels, it’d be kind of disappointing if it didn’t include more than just white people and dead things.
What I enjoyed most from A Dirty Job was the nifty way Moore choreographed the transmittal of a soul from one person to another. In his world, not everyone is born with a soul. I guess there are only so many to go around? When someone dies, their soul travels into an object. The object glows while the soul resides there, but only Charlie and other “death merchants” can see it. Their job is to keep that object safe until the person the soul is meant for next touches it. That person is drawn to the object, but they also have to be ready to receive the soul. If they aren’t, nothing happens. Sometimes the souls have to hang out for a while, in a pair of glowing Converse sneakers or a kitschy frog figurine. Sometimes the souls are eaten by demons lurking in the San Franciscan sewers. Souls give them power, and they are trying to take over the world. This naturally culminates in an epic battle, but it doesn’t end the way you would expect. Moore still has a trick or two up his sleeve, even if he tends to save the best ones for his male characters. I hear this book may even be part of a series. If you were so inclined, you could continue following the cast (and occasional reanimated mostly-squirrel) on their further soul-collecting, demon-crushing adventures. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.