by Christopher Moore



325pp/$23.00/August 1997

Island of the Sequined Love Nun
Cover by Michael McGurl

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Cargo cults arose in Polynesia in response to the arrival of Europeans. The isolated islanders would receive gifts from these foreigners which were completely outside the realm of experience. The foreigners would then disappear and pass into legend, although the artifacts would remain behind. Cults would be built around these visits and the hope that one day they would return with more gifts in exchange for the islanders' loyalty and reverence.

When Vincent Benidetto's bomber made an emergency landing on the island of Alualu, near Micronesia, he gave birth to a new cult, the Cult of Vincent. Eventually, Dr. Sebastian Curtis and his wife Beth arrive on the island and adopt the cult to make their health care and research run more smoothly. For years, Beth plays the role of the Sky Priestess, the incarnation of the image which appeared on Vincent's plane when it landed during World War II. Requiring a pilot to fly supplies, Curtis hires Tucker Case, a down-on-his-luck pilot.

Case is a typical Moore character: A perfectly normal person, perhaps something of a loser, who finds himself in incredible situations. Case has recently lost his job after crashing the pink corporate jet he flew for Mary Jean Cosmetics while trying to help a hooker enter the Mile High Club. Without a pilot's license and possibly facing charges, Case gladly accepts when Curtis offers him the job in Alualu.

En route to the island, Case meets up with Kimi, a Filipino transvestite prostitute and his talking fruitbat, Roberto. These two see Case through a series of adventures which result in Case's arrival on Alualu, where the fun really begins.

Mostly, Moore's books are fun. Island of the Sequined Love Nun is his fourth novel and each one has been funny and well written. I would unhesitatingly recommend any of the four. However, he does manage to examine issues in addition to merely talking a good story. In Island of the Sequined Love Nun, he explores the role of religion and hypocrisy, a common ground for satire which is often overdone and not enjoyable. Perhaps because he avoids taking too many pokes at major religions, concentrating instead on an imaginary cult on an imaginary island, Moore does a better job than most. In fact, what he really is examining is the role of faith. Despite a variety of indications that Curtis and Beth are not representatives of Vincent (Beth can even walk unmolested among them as a normal woman when she is not wearing her Sky Priestess "outfit"), the faith of the islanders has them believing in the religion which has grown up around Vincent. This faith is a true and good thing, allowing the islanders to account for the paradoxes which would otherwise destroy their belief. Even Sarapul, the cannibal who tries to cling to the old ways, maintains his faith, hardly begrudging his fellow islanders their faith (although he wouldn't mind a nice human sandwich on occasion.

Ethics and retributions, however, are two areas which Moore touches on briefly but in the end gives a only a vague discussion. Several of the antagonists in the novel receive no punishment in the course of a novel, a situation which may mirror life, but generally is avoided in novels, especially when dealing with religion and faith. This "oversight" does not detract from Moore denouement in any perceivable way.

Humor is a difficult thing to write, yet Moore has consistently turned out funny novels (although as I read some passages aloud to my wife I realized how much they need to be taken in context). Moore is an author who, with the right publicity, should quickly be able to find a large and appreciative audience.

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