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Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings

4.7 16
by Christopher Moore

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Just why do humpback whales sing? That's the question that has marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me.

Trouble is, Nate's


Just why do humpback whales sing? That's the question that has marine behavioral biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording, and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. Until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: Bite me.

Trouble is, Nate's beginning to wonder if he hasn't spent just a little too much time in the sun. 'Cause no one else on his team saw a thing -- not his longtime partner, Clay Demodocus; not their saucy young research assistant; not even the spliff-puffing white-boy Rastaman Kona (né Preston Applebaum). But later, when a roll of film returns from the lab missing the crucial tail shot -- and his research facility is trashed -- Nate realizes something very fishy indeed is going on.

By turns witty, irreverent, fascinating, puzzling, and surprising, Fluke is Christopher Moore at his outrageous best.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
For all his paranoia-fueled plotting, which escalates to the level of a threat to virtually everything on the planet, Mr. Moore takes his whales seriously. His Author's Notes at the end of the book address conservation issues and suggest ways the reader can help. — Janet Maslin
The Washington Post
Moore is probably the funniest writer of comic fantasy novels working today. — Paul Di Filippo
Publishers Weekly
From Jonah to Pinocchio, men have dreamed of stowing away alive in the bellies of whales. Nate Quinn experiences this doubtful honor in Moore's outrageous new novel (after Lamb). Nate studies whales, operating a small research unit in Lahaina in Maui along with Clay Demodocus, a famous undersea photographer, and two seasonal hires: Amy Earheart, supposedly a grad student from Woods Hole Institute, and Kona, a dreadlocked Hawaiian stoner. When Nate spots a humpback whale with "Bite Me" tattooed on a tail fluke, mysterious disasters start to strike. Then Nate, out with Amy, is swallowed by the tattooed humpback. Technically, this is impossible, nature having created narrow throats for humpback whales, but the tattooed one is a living ship, a simulacrum of a humpback run by a crew of humans and "whaley boys"-human/ whale cross breeds. Nate learns that they were designed by the Goo. (The Goo is a giant, intelligent organism that evolved undersea billions of years ago and has lately been spying on humans with fleets of false whales.) The whale ships dock in Gooville, an underwater city populated by supposedly drowned humans and horny whaley boys on shore leave. The place is run by the "Colonel," Nate's old teacher, "Growl" Ryder. Nate runs into Amy and helps foil the Colonel's mad plan to destroy the Goo. Meanwhile, Clay and Kona plan to come to Nate's rescue. Moore is endlessly inventive in his description of the rubbery, watery world of Goo, and his characters are perfectly calibrated, part credible human beings and part clever caricatures. This cetacean picaresque is no fluke-it is a sure winner. (June) Forecast: Moore's wacky fantasia may not be for everyone, but Morrow is ensuring that it reach the maximum number of readers possible, with a 16-city author tour and a major ad/promo campaign. Cult classic? Could be. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ever since introducing us to a salt-munching genie a decade ago (Practical Demonkeeping), Moore has been a little offplumb. Here, in the second part of Fluke, he presents an organic, macrobiotic cosmos called "Goo," located some 600 feet below ocean surface off the coast of Chile, populated by "whaley-boys" (don't ask), historical personages and researchers captured when they start to figure out the "meaning" of whale song. In Part 1, we meet some such researchers who meet with one calamity after another until their leader is captured by a "whale-ship" (looks like a whale, acts like a whale, isn't a whale) when he starts to crack code and is taken to "Gootown," where he finds a long-believed-dead former professor changed into the megalomaniac "Colonel" who believes the world headed for a war of Genes (the "Goo") and Memes (the rest of us) and wants his Goo fiefdom destroyed. World-saving (two worlds, really) is in order. Sound complicated? Yes, but this is still one funny sociopolitical-scientific-cultural fable. For most popular collections.-Robert E. Brown, Minoa Lib., NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The culture of cetacean research is cheerfully lampooned in this antic seventh novel from the Tom Robbins/Douglas Adams-like author of Lamb (2002) and other gag-filled romps. The setting is the coast of Maui, where marine biologist Nathan Quinn, his associate Clay Demodocus, and lissome research assistant Amy Earhart are studying the "songs" of humpback whales. The tone is breezy, and the plot quickly fishtails into agreeable absurdity. Rude invective is detected on the thrashing flukes of a frequently sighted specimen. "Old Broad" resident Elizabeth Robinson claims to communicate with whales (one requests a pastrami-on-rye sandwich). "Ersatz Hawaiian" boathand "Kona" is jailed (after Quinn's office is vandalized), and narrowly escapes the amorous attentions of a gigantic Samoan detainee. So it goes. Clay and Amy become disconnected from their boat during a dive and are feared lost. Nathan is "eaten by a giant whale ship," reluctantly bonds with a super-race of piscatorial mutants, meets "the mysterious overlord of an undersea city," and eventually learns-from a radically transformed old acquaintance-what all the singing is really about. Few readers will be surprised to learn that all this is (rather stagily) thematically related to the integrity of the ecosystem and the punishments nature is storing up for humans who have slaughtered whales and otherwise traduced the natural order. Moore is far from at his best when thus veering into sermon mode, but he's a facile, entertaining writer, and has infectious fun hacking away at such targets as Canadian hockey violence, "whale huggers," the US Navy's shortsighted appropriation of oceanic resources for covert tests and experiments, cetaceansexual peccadilloes, supertankers, and a whole lot more. Smooth as a pi-a colada, and just about as substantial. Still: let Moore be Moore, and he will show you a good time. Agent: Nicholas Ellison/Nicholas Ellison Agency. Author tour

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Christopher Moore


Copyright © 2007 Christopher Moore
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061252976

Chapter One

Big and Wet.
Next Question?

Amy called the whale punkin.

He was fifty feet long, wider than a city bus, and weighed eighty thousand pounds. One well-placed slap of his great tail would reduce the boat to fiberglass splinters and its occupants to red stains drifting in the blue Hawaiian waters. Amy leaned over the side of the boat and lowered the hydrophone down on the whale. "Good morning, punkin," she said.

Nathan Quinn shook his head and tried not to upchuck from the cuteness of it, of her, while surreptitiously sneaking a look at her bottom and feeling a little sleazy about it. Science can be complex. Nate was a scientist. Amy was a scientist, too, but she looked fantastic in a pair of khaki hiking shorts, scientifically speaking.

Below, the whale sang on, the boat vibrated with each note. The stainless rail at the bow began to buzz. Nate could feel the deeper notes resonate in his rib cage. The whale was into a section of the song they called the "green" themes, a long series of whoops that sounded like an ambulance driving through pudding. A less trained listener might have thought that the whale was rejoicing, celebrating, shouting howdy to the world to let everyone and everything know that he was alive and feeling good, butNate was a trained listener, perhaps the most trained listener in the world, and to his expert ears the whale was saying -- Well, he had no idea what in the hell the whale was saying, did he? That's why they were out there floating in that sapphire channel off Maui in a small speedboat, sloshing their breakfasts around at seven in the morning: No one knew why the humpbacks sang. Nate had been listening to them, observing them, photographing them, and poking them with sticks for twenty-five years, and he still had no idea why, exactly, they sang.

"He's into his ribbits," Amy said, identifying a section of the whale's song that usually came right before the animal was about to surface. The scientific term for this noise was "ribbits" because that's what they sounded like. Science can be simple.

Nate peeked over the side and looked at the whale that was suspended head down in the water about fifty feet below them. His flukes and pectoral fins were white and described a crystal-blue chevron in the deep blue water. So still was the great beast that he might have been floating in space, the last beacon of some long-dead space-traveling race -- except that he was making croaky noises that would have sounded more appropriate coming out of a two-inch tree frog than the archaic remnant of a superrace. Nate smiled. He liked ribbits. The whale flicked his tail once and shot out of Nate's field of vision.

"He's coming up," Nate said.

Amy tore off her headphones and picked up the motorized Nikon with the three-hundred-millimeter lens. Nate quickly pulled up the hydrophone, allowing the wet cord to spool into a coil at his feet, then turned to the console and started the engine.

Then they waited.

There was a blast of air from behind them and they both spun around to see the column of water vapor hanging in the air, but it was far, perhaps three hundred meters behind them -- too far away to be their whale. That was the problem with the channel between Maui and Lanai where they worked: There were so many whales that you often had a hard time distinguishing the one you were studying from the hundreds of others. The abundance of animals was a both a blessing and a curse.

"That our guy?" Amy asked. All the singers were guys. As far as they knew anyway. The DNA tests had proven that.


There was another blow to their left, this one much closer. Nate could see the white flukes or blades of his tail under the water, even from a hundred meters away. Amy hit the stop button on her watch. Nate pushed the throttle forward and they were off. Amy braced a knee against the console to steady herself, keeping the camera pointed toward the whale as the boat bounced along. He would blow three, maybe four times, then fluke and dive. Amy had to be ready when the whale dove to get a clear shot of his flukes so he could be identified and cataloged. When they were within thirty yards of the whale, Nate backed the throttle down and held them in position. The whale blew again, and they were close enough to catch some of the mist. There was none of the dead fish and massive morning-mouth smell that they would have encountered in Alaska. Humpbacks didn't feed while they were in Hawaii.

The whale fluked and Amy fired off two quick frames with the Nikon.

"Good boy," Amy said to the whale. She hit the lap timer button on her watch.

Nate cut the engine and the speedboat settled into the gentle swell. He threw the hydrophone overboard, then hit the record button on the recorder that was bungee-corded to the console. Amy set the camera on the seat in front of the console, then snatched their notebook out of a waterproof pouch.

"He's right on sixteen minutes," Amy said, checking the time and recording it in the notebook. She wrote the time and the frame numbers of the film she had just shot. Nate read her the footage number off the recorder, then the longitude and latitude from the portable GPS (global positioning system) device. She put down the notebook, and they listened. They weren't right on top of the whale as they had been before, but they could hear him singing through the recorder's speaker. Nate put on the headphones and sat back to listen.

That's how field research was. Moments of frantic activity followed by long periods of waiting ...


Excerpted from Fluke by Christopher Moore Copyright © 2007 by Christopher Moore. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Christopher Moore is the author of fourteen previous novels, including Lamb, The Stupidest Angel, Fool, Sacré Bleu, A Dirty Job, and The Serpent of Venice.

Brief Biography

Hawaii and San Francisco, California
Date of Birth:
August 5, 1958
Place of Birth:
Toledo, Ohio

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Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Do you know the secrets to whale songs? Well, maybe no one does, but Chris does one hell of a job trying to explain it, just like he did trying to explain those missing passages in the Bible (see the book 'Lamb'). Christopher Moore has weaved us a tale that explains quite a lot about whales and keeps us laughing the entire time. I've heard people say the story is hard to buy, but all you need is a little imagination. If you've got it then strap yourself in for one groovy ride on the Chris fun bus. It's well worth the 23.95 price tag, but Barnes and Noble has lowered it just a bit. Enjoy. And, if you're looking for a place to start--read 'Practical Demonkeeping'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What can you say- it's like David Sedris- Chris Moore just throws you for a loop and before you can stop laughing he hits you again. I have enjoyed all of his books and look forward to what comes next from this 'dysfunctional in a good way' man! I think I have seen the whale that says 'Bite Me' it wanders off the coast of Cambria, CA..............
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nothing like an absent-minded professor, a hot assistant in sexy shorts and a boat off the coast of Maui to solve the mystery of the Whale song. Why do they sing? No, really. But Scientist Nate doubts his sanity when a humpback flips its tail with 'bite me' scrawled on the flukes. The charming story soon veers toward the severely improbable when Nate is swallowed by the object of his research and discovers a secret underwater world that challenges Darwin's theory. One cannot resist the humorous voice that never quits and hilarious secondary characters like Kona, the white native surfer with a Jamaican accent and dreadlocks 'enveloping his face like a furry octopus attacking a crab.' Thank heavens (or should I say the goo?) because at the beginning, the roaming point of view, long paragraphs and many flashbacks confuse the reader who loses sense of place and time. The imaginary world under the pacific ocean seems sketchy, unfinished, like its inhabitants. The villains remain too vague and impersonal to constitute a believable threat, including the military conspiracy (or is there a conspiracy?), as if the author lacked the time to fully develop and polish his ideas. The romantic thread also suffers from terminal vagueness. Although Christopher Moore did some serious research (as attested by the politically correct author's notes at the end), the story will make the scientific community cringe, unless they have an acidic sense of humor (let's hope they do). Still, this tale, reminiscent of Jonas or Jules Verne, presents an intriguing concept of the creation. Not as funny as other novels from Christopher Moore, like Lamb or Practical Demonkeeping, Fluke still delivers a whale of a time. Pun intended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Moore keeps me, well longing for more. Got the book the other day in the mail, and two hours later was enjoying a post coital nap. I keep wondering, how does he do it? No other author can make me laugh like he does, and if I could, I'd be hanging out with every one of his characters. I have been a devoted follower of Moore since I first laid eyes on the hardback of Bloodsucking Fiends, A Love Story. Sadly, the book is finished and I pine for the next witty, irreverent and damn funny novel by Moore.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The fact of the matter is that we're all pretty smart. We're hyper-informed, pan-curious, problem-solving up-right cell-phone jamming rulers of the earth and we don't got no time for no boring literature. While some self-evolving intellectuals might invest their valuable time worshipping Satre, David Foster-Wallace, spittle dampened politcal screed mags and Latham's convoluted, hyper-concerned, tweeded dadface of a column, the rest of us brainiacs will shoot them a collective metaphorical moon by getting our neuronic rocks off reading Christopher Moore's new book, Fluke. Now I consider myself a fairly well read, intelligent man. I can pick out a stellated dodecahedron from a group of similiar geometric offenders and I know the difference between Focault and Eco but I steadfastly refuse to waste those smarts on academic trudgology and (ahem) lit cherature. That's like eating what's good for you! I decline! I demand my authors to be entertainnig AND brilliant. Thank God for Mr. Moore, King of the Smarty Pants (I mean that in a good way). In Fluke (and I presume in the rest of Christopher Moore's novels though this is the first one I've read) we subgenius lit snobs can finally get a break. Fluke is smart and smart-alecked. The characters are people I'd like to hang out with--even the crazy ones would make for a good round of tequila shots if you keep the table between you. They're hip but mid-western hip. Chicago hip. Cool without being brittle and precious. The bok's sexy lab assistant character calls them 'Action Nerds'. I had meant to get the new Tom Robbins--his last book, 'Fierce Invalids Returning from a Hot Climate', having caused me to publicly expell liquid through my nose, and was all prepped for a hilarious nose washing, ala Robbins who can effortlessly write about back-door lovin' nuns and the last Monkey Christ without making me throw a book across the room. But I started reading Fluke and I ended up being the idiot stuck at the light at major intersections because I was stealing red-light time to keep reading. There are similarities between these authors (and maybe TC Boyle when he's in a less ironic mood) but the similarity is one of markets. An 'if you like Robbins you'll like Moore' kind of similarity. There is a more considerable difference: Moore actually likes the people he creates. And unlike Robbins who is of the nudge nudge wink wink variety of fourth wall bombadiers, Moore doesn't need to keep calling your attention to his craft or his craftiness. It speaks for itself. Fluke kept me up all night. I finished it at 3 a.m. without that dull aftertaste of desire one normally gets when done with a good book. Usually I want it to keep going-- but Moore knows how to close. When I finished Fluke I felt satisified.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read this one twice I love the way Mr. Moore writes the dialog between his characters. You will thourghly enjoy all of the characters in this book and are sad when you reach the end. Fluke starts you off with Dr Quinn and his new research assistant studying the humpback whales off Hawaii at this point we depart reality and these characters take you on a ride so absurd but totally logical and believable (even though your mind is flagging nonsense)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading this book on Maui made it that much more fun. Then we went on a whale watch and it made it that much more enjoyable. Called the guys on the catamaran whaley boys, and I don't think they got it. Love Christopher Moore--have read all his books. My favorite is still Bloodsucking Fiends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to disagree with the Audio File review above. I thought the reader did a great job keeping the characters and the story clear. His tone was perfect for this funny and wildly imaginative tale. I've just discovered Christoper Moore and can't wait to read his other books (I hope more make it onto tape as well).
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think about the whaley boys and I am still laughing. It grabs you from beginning to end and, while slightly predictable, I intend to try some more of mr. moore's novels. Fluke was an excellent introduction to his writing, and his sense of humore is right up my alley.