The Four Fingers of Death

The Four Fingers of Death

A Novel

Book - 2010
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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.
Publisher: New York : Little, Brown and Co., c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780316118910
Branch Call Number: SF MOO
SF MOO
Characteristics: 729 p. ; 25 cm

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SCL_Justin Jul 25, 2017

Rick Moody’s The Four Fingers of Death is an odd kind of book for me. I really like the idea behind it (a “literary novelization of the 2020s remake of a 1960s B-Movie”). The construction of the framing story plus the Mission to Mars story that never shows up in the film being adapted is very neat. I like the future world Moody’s depicting, with its increasingly irrelevant NAFTA-bloc being overshadowed by Sino-Indian concerns so they’re trying to do these grand space gestures to delay the inevitable end of American hegemony.

But man, I hated reading this book.

The problem is basically that every scene goes on and on. Pages and pages are spewed out conveying nothing. I care about the one-sentence summaries of these characters, but the endless pontificating and monologuing that never actually help illuminate the characters or the situations made this thing a slog and a half. There were good bits and ideas and scenes (especially in the introduction and afterword), but they were buried in all this extra crap.

It’s funny because the narrator of the story is introduced as a baseball-card collector and writer whose grand contributions to literature are these stories that are 1 sentence long. So it’s funny to have the book be a monument to prolixity. But not funny enough to keep me from heaving a sigh of relief when it was done.

The whole thing made me miss Kurt Vonnegut, which was conscious on Moody’s part. But Vonnegut wouldn’t have taken 700 pages to do this book.

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