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The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Christopher Moore
Sphere Books, 304 pages

The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Christopher Moore
Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1957, Christopher Moore has worked as a roofer, a photographer, a disk jockey, a journalist, a motel clerk and a waiter. At 32, he wrote Practical Demonkeeping (optioned by Disney) followed by Coyote Blue and Bloodsucking Fiends, a love story.

Christopher Moore Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Island of the Sequined Love Nun
SF Site Review: Island of the Sequined Love Nun

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

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A title like The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cave either immediately appeals or appalls. Fortunately for Christopher Moore, there are plenty of people like me who are strangely drawn to weird titles. And fortunately for people like me, the contents are as strangely delightful as the title.

This bizarre tale is set in a small Californian tourist town on the Pacific coast, where a third of the residents are on anti-depressants. If you've ever driven along the coast, you've probably run across a town like Pine Cove:

"Pine Cove was a decorative town -- built for show -- only one degree more functional than a Disneyland attraction and decidedly lacking in businesses and services that catered to residents rather than tourists. The business district included ten art galleries, five wine-tasting rooms, twenty restaurants, eleven gift and card shops, and one hardware store."
The cast of characters in Pine Cove is a veritable loony bin. Dr Valerie Riordan, Pine Cove's only clinical psychiatrist, is a neatly pressed socialite who could probably use some of the medication that she prescribes for her patients. She makes life very interesting in Pine Cove when she decides to takes all of her patients off anti-depressants after one of them commits suicide. The sleepy town of Pine Cove threatens to boil over as Val's unwilling accomplice, the town pharmacist whom Val is extorting, begins substituting placebos for real medication and pocketing the extra cash.

But that barely scratches the surface. We also have the town constable, one Theophilus Crowe, who is a perpetually stoned ex-hippie with more practical experience with bongs than police work. Then there's Molly Michon, aka Kendra, Warrior Babe of the Outland, a former B-movie actress with a bipolar, post-morbid schizo-typal personality disorder. She very much misses her days as an actress and harbors just a small amount of bitterness at the circumstances that ended her career. Next is Gabe Fenton, your stereotypical biologist with two PhDs and zero social skills (two guesses who he ends up with). Rounding off the cast is Mavis Sand, proprietor of the Head of the Slug Saloon. Mavis's claim to fame is that she has so many replacement body parts that she's more machine than human.

Val's decision to stop medicating her patients turns out to be an unexpected windfall for Mavis as the town rushes to the town pub to self-medicate themselves. Mavis unwittingly makes the town's situation worse when she hires Catfish Jefferson, a talented Blues guitarist, to play at the saloon.

Sounds plenty weird already, you say? I haven't even gotten to the plot yet. The story starts at the end of the tourist season, normally the time when things should be slowing down in peaceful Pine Cove. But a couple of small events change that: 1) a small leak at a nearby nuclear power plant; and 2) the suicide of Betty Leander, wife and mother of two, and obsessive-compulsive neat freak.

The leak at the power plant draws out a creature from the depths of the ocean and brings it to Pine Cove: a 100-foot long, shape-shifting, libido-inducing reptile that plays havoc with Pine Cove and its inhabitants. Some of the funniest moments of the book are those related to the unexplained effects of the "Lust Lizard" on the inhabitants of Pine Cove. The suicide reveals another complicated story -- how a stoned ex-hippie became the sole law enforcement officer in Pine Cove.

Christopher Moore weaves a wonderful story with a zany group of characters, a 100-foot lizard, and a totally unpredictable plot. There's plenty to like about the whole book. Each and every one of the characters is unique and delightful. From the descriptions above, it might seem that a book with so many bizarre characters would be very fragmented, but Moore brings them all together in a fascinating, fluid way.

In the end, I promise, everything makes sense. If the title doesn't scare you, I don't think you'll be disappointed with The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cave.

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.


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