Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cluck: Murder Most Fowl


Ok, I found this book on clearance at the River Run bookstore in Portsmouth, and honestly, how could I not have bought it???? If the punny title doesn't sell you, listen to the review from the back cover:

"The Best Undead Chicken Novel of All Time" - Lloyd Kaufman, director, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

See what I'm saying? The BEST undead chicken novel of ALL TIME!!

Also it was apparently made into a play in Denver last year...

So...pretty amazing, right?

I kind of wish I had seen the play because I wonder what tone they took with it and how it came off. The book was funny, quite funny in parts, but based on the cover I thought it was going to be more goofy funny and it was actually quite a bit darker than I had thought it would be.

The basic story is of a bunch of undead chickens who are haunting a farmhouse (and tormenting the farmer who torched them-hence the cover art) and the "Exorciste de Volaille", or chicken exorcist, Arnold/Armand, who comes to release them into the afterlife.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the story was The Order (of undead chicken exorcists, of course), which were portrayed as constantly smoking, disdainful French caricatures. They actually remind me a lot of the Watcher's Council on Buffy in their role in the story, except that in Buffy they were non-smoking, uptight Brits.

To me, the most hilarious bits were the explanations of chicken logic. For example, floating images of tomatoes to lure humans in, because apparently chickens can't resist tomatoes, so it will definitely work on humans too. They are confounded when it doesn't really work, and yet they keep trying it again, and again, and again. And apparently food takes up a big portion of chickens' attention because when the farmer sprinkled gasoline to burn down the coop, they didn't realize it wasn't food until they tried to eat it. Then, when they found that "it tasted acrid and smelled strange...they only lapped up a little bit of it." Also, when the farmer lit the coop on fire, the chickens jumped into the coop because the coop is a safe place...every chicken knows that. Etc.

On the other hand, it was really pretty gross in parts, like the descriptions of the undead chickens. Consider this scene: 

"In the middle of the pavement, the chicken squelched once more, moving further from the upturned crate and the pair of near-forgotten Nikes. A limp neck, unnaturally long, was exposed. A broken eggshell of a skull topped it, a cracked beak and two lifeless black pits for eyes were exposed. Everyone was watching as it moved again, and then turned. A wet, rubbery spasm rippled up the thing's neck. It looked up at them...First swelling, as if with the intake of breath, the thing grew huge, and then in a long putrid sigh it deflated, shrinking with the acrid hiss of expelled gases. The chicken, now flopping about in its newly deflated sack of rotting skin, hobbled forward as it began to draw power into itself."

Maybe I just have a weak stomach, but...yuck. Not saying I didn't enjoy it, just...ew.

I found the plot a tiny bit overwritten. Maybe it was partly that the author jumped around temporally and topically in each chapter, which I don't particularly dislike, but which made it a little hard to put all of the pieces together in the end.

However, I think the characters are awesome, very enjoyable to get to know, including the personifications of the house and Arnold/Armand's car, which was an unexpected bit of fun. Arnold/Armand himself is pretty kick ass, sort of a down and dirty type who doesn't over-think his job as a chicken exorcist, just gets to it, but also has a heart.

That makes me think of the ending, which I don't want to give away, but which had a nice little twist to it and was satisfying to me.

I know that most people who read this are going to want to borrow the book, so I'm going to make a rule about first messaged, first served, but if you all wait patiently I can get it to you in time. =)