How would Montese Crandall, our protagonist and a struggling writer whose biggest success is the novelization of a remake of an old horror movie, describe Chris Patton’s performance of Rick Moody’s comic tour-de-force The Four Fingers of Death? It depends which Crandall you ask.
The Crandall we meet in the introduction to Four Fingers sounds as serious as the Moody many people know, the creator of such austere studies of suburban malaise like The Ice Storm and Purple America. This Crandall specializes in distilling his novels down to their essential elements. Then he distills those distillations down even further and further still until he arrives at diamond-like nuggets of truth. But Crandall doesn’t stop there. No. He goes on and pulverizes those truths even more until all he’s left with is one single sentence: “Go get some eggs, you dwarf.” or “Last one home goes without anesthesia.” This Crandall would probably describe Patton’s passionate reading of Moody’s novel with something like, “My God, he did it!” or “Somebody give that man a scotch.”
Then there’s the Crandall who writes the novelization of the racy remake of The Crawling Hand, a creepy black-and-white B movie from 1963. This Crandall has never met a word or digression he doesn’t love. This Crandall the bastard child of Tristram Shandy and Moby Dick raised in an ashram by peyote-eating, self-help book-quoting survivalists revels in the hallucinatory possibility of language. This Crandall would lovingly write page after page about how Patton’s pulsating voice brings the rhythm of Moody’s manic magnum opus to life. Patton reads with gusto Moody’s vision of an America in the not-so-distant future that barely squeaks by and is populated with crackpots, conspiracy theorists, junk scientists, and sex-crazed teenagers who listen to Dead Girlfriend-genre heavy metal. This might sound familiar, except the characters in this novelization of a remake of a movie no one has ever heard of are being terrorized by a powerful, bacteria-infested, perverted four-fingered hand from Mars.
The verbose Crandall would marvel at Patton’s verbal dexterity, his ability to intone the scientific and militaristic techno babble with a straight face one second, then transform his voice into a Valley Girl fashion pop tart or the foul-mouthed son of a Korean scientist desperately trying to reanimate his cryogenically frozen dead wife stored in a refrigerator in his garage.
Yes, Patton pulls it all off, performing The Four Fingers of Death like a one-man Mercury Theater, keeping the audience spellbound as he tells a tale so tall, you smile at the absurdity of it all and anxiously await to hear the next chapter. Because let’s face it. Anything can happen. And that’s part of the absurd, giddy joy of listening to Moody’s latest. Ken Ross
Montese Crandall is a downtrodden writer whose rare collection of baseball cards won't sustain him, financially or emotionally, through the grave illness of his wife. Luckily, he swindles himself a job churning out a novelization of the 2025 remake of a 1963 horror classic, "The Crawling Hand." Crandall tells therein of the United States, in a bid to regain global eminence, launching at last its doomed manned mission to the desolation of Mars. Three space pods with nine Americans on board travel three months, expecting to spend three years as the planet's first colonists. When a secret mission to retrieve a flesh-eating bacterium for use in bio-warfare is uncovered, mayhem ensues. Only a lonely human arm (missing its middle finger) returns to earth, crash-landing in the vast Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The arm may hold the secret to reanimation or it may simply be an infectious killing machine. In the ensuing days, it crawls through the heartbroken wasteland of a civilization at its breaking point, economically and culturally--a dystopia of lowlife, emigration from America, and laughable lifestyle alternatives.
The Four Fingers of Death is a stunningly inventive, sometimes hilarious, monumental novel. It will delight admirers of comic masterpieces like Slaughterhouse-Five, The Crying of Lot 49, and Catch-22.
©2010 Rick Moody (P)2010 Audible, Inc
I had the same reservations as you, the concept could collapse under its own weight, I don't like my sci-fi coming from lit-fic, etc. but I have a lot of time to kill at my job and it's like 23 hours long so I gambled and WON, this book is a total treat! Sufficiently pulpy, slightly satiricritical (the future here reminded me of Super Sad Love Story) but the novel is ultimately pinned to the aching space of the void. The spacewalk is, at its heart, an ode to lonesomeness. The 'introduction' took some getting through, and of the 2 parts I liked the Mars journey more, it had a very similar feel to Chris Ware's "Seeing Eye dogs of Mars" from Acme #19. And the narrator WAS PERFECT FOR THIS! If you're curious give it a shot. I loved it!!
Then you will probably dig this. If you are looking for your standard "Book 9 in the Adventures of Space Captain Whatever" then skip it. This is what I would call "fatigue lit" - Moody, like the others mentioned, is exhausting and at times waaaaay too clever for his own good. That said, there is far more substance and charming insight to be found here than in, say, William Gibson's last few books combined. Also, the narrator is pitch perfect (including his brief slip around mid way). My advice is to listen to books like this one on double speed - it is too long and exasperating to slog through at standard speed.
Great writing, great narration and it is a real mind bender. Yeah, I know. Lots of pretty raw sexual
passages and certain characters can't speak unless they use the "f" word and its kin in every
sentence...sometimes more than once. So. If you can't tolerate foul
language and explicit sexual descriptions then it may not be the book for you. But, somehow,
as with most of the weirdness and idiocy which transpires within the pages, it all seems to
enhance the story, making it, as a whole, much greater than the sum of its parts and a joy to listen to and/or read. . Nothing gratuitous about the smut. Sure, its all fantasy. It could never happen!...probably not. But even in all this make believe, most of Moody's characters
ring true. And, although what they do within the story may surprise us, at times, like all good actors, they stay in character. That is the mark of an accomplished writer.
It is a long, convoluted and detailed story. In a couple of places, the plot changes are
jolting and may cause temporary disconnect. Just hang in there and it will all work out.
Seems to me, "The Four Fingers of Death, as campy as the title is, belongs in the same genre as "Animal Farm", "Brave New World", "1984" and "Fahrenheit 451"...classic socio/political SF. It is an original. And a lot funnier than the other 4 I mentioned.
...and I'm the type to usually slug it out until the end. The "Listeners Like Me" feature led me to this book and I find myself wishing I'd read more of the dissenting reviews. I find myself agreeing with them now.
Some praised this book for being meta and complex. I call bull@#$%. I found it was dull and changed gears too quickly. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was the third act where point of view shifted to a profane, idiot teenager. It got to be intolerable.
I'm a lawg dawg from MT
The beginning of this book is unbearable. Fast forward past the first 45min and you might be able to handle the rest. Once the full plot of the book is revealed it is worth the pain and suffering of jumping from one story to the next.
I am a massive fan of that ultimate: a great story that is also well written and very long (we all want more for our monthly Audible credit, right?)
FFoD is almost that but i felt that it was tooooo drawn out in the end, and that if some portions of the story were condensed. But a great concept and a great vision of the slightly greater dystopia we will be living in less than 20 years.
This fulfills some of the hopes that metafiction can give. How the implied, alternative and unacknowledged are embedded in our stories.
It is all over the map. Honestly I struggled with it. The narrator did an amazing job.
The book was sorta...well....I don't know. I imagine this is one book where folks go crazy and love it....others will hate it. If you like insane random plot this is for you. I gave it up with about 4 hours, I made it most of the way.
The author is full of himself. He tells a supposed tale that gives all appearances to be just about him. I haven't read his bio, so I don't know for sure, but listening to someone talk about himself is BORING
I noticed early on in the book that the characterization of women was "not good": disease ridden, greedy, demented, slutty, treacherous; and their relationships with men were defined by pain and suffering......then it happened (near the end of part 1): an explicitly described gay male sex act.
This is not the kind of material I expect to be peddled in the Sci-Fi section. I believe that there is a more appropriate section for this kind of book. I do not plan to hear the rest of the story so I can't tell you whether or not the authors declaration that "on Mars maybe gay sex was how sex was meant to be", turns out to be true; because, frankly I don't want to know. But, I can say that based on Part1, I do not agree with the high rating this book has received.
"A wonderful book that messes with my mind."
I'm amazed that no-one has yet written a review of the utterly remarkable Four Fingers of Death or rather I was until I tried writing a review myself.
It's kind of impossible to describe except by heaping together a ridiculously long list of adjectives most of which would be, you know, like 'brilliant', 'remarkable' and so on. It's unsettling, unnerving and unlike any book I've read before.It's shocking,hilarious and moving, immersive, emotional and immensly satisfying. So no, I'm not going to review it because I'm not able to do it any sort of justice. I just advise you to read it. Oh yes, and I wasn't going to say this, but right there at the end it also made me cry just a little.
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