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The four fingers of death : a novel /

Montese Crandall, a down-on-his-luck writer with a wife who is gravely ill, pens a novelization of the 2025 remake of a 1963 horror movie, wherein an animated dismembered arm, missing its middle finger, is the only remnant that returns to Earth from a mission to Mars.

Main Author: Moody, Rick.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2010
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

This gargantuan comic novel comes with a high concept and a complicated backstory. In the year 2025, Montese Crandall has won the rights to pen a novelization of the remake of the 1963 drive-in classic The Crawling Arm. His resulting opus first describes a mission to Mars that goes disastrously awry when the astronauts sink into drug addiction, inappropriate sex, and murder. The lone astronaut to make it back to earth, realizing that he is infected with deadly Martian bacteria, blows up his spaceship. All that remains is his crawling, infected arm, which proceeds to make its way across a blighted Arizona. Moody's outrageous plot reflects his love of cheesy science fiction and allows him to tweak the conventions of the genre while also launching acerbic commentary on a future U.S. in which gated communities have seceded from a nation reeling from pollution, crime, and a parboiled economy. While he's at it, he also fleshes out dozens and dozens of characters, including a chimpanzee, and has a great time channeling angst-ridden teen-speak as well as the bureaucratese of mid-level NASA administrators. The novel may prove to be an exhausting experience for fans of Moody's early books; instead, it reads like the giddy creation of the bastard child of the two Toms that would be Robbins and Pynchon.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

No amount of familiarity with Moody's body of work will prepare a reader for this distressingly impertinent exercise in bafflement. The plot originates in 2024 with Montese Crandall, a blocked writer whose list of woes includes a wife in a coma and an unsavory passion for baseball cards featuring bionically enhanced players, and whose major success is winning the right to author the novelization of the remake of the 1963 horror flick The Crawling Hand. The novelization, then, basically is the book. First, we have the space diaries of Col. Jed Richards, whose mission to Mars goes awry amid machete-wielding colonists, homoerotic encounters with fellow astronauts, and an insidious bacteria. Next, we're back on Earth, swept up in NASA's efforts to curtail the murderous swath of the mission's sole survivor: Colonel Richards's severed arm. All the while, Crandall clears his chest of everything from primate sexuality and megachurches to Mexican wrestlers. The comedy of catharsis ought to be whacked-out good fun. Instead, it is desperately and exceedingly annoying. To accuse Moody's book of inanity is like calling a B-movie's production values thrifty; the inanity is the point. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

After the long illness and death of his wife, chess player, baseball card collector, and short fiction writer Montese Crandall writes a novelization of the 2025 remake of a 1963 horror film, The Crawling Hand. In his novelization, "The Four Fingers of Death," Crandall depicts a not-too-distant future in which research has resulted in the production of bionic limbs that can lead lives of their own. After the failure of a manned mission to Mars, the spacecraft crash-lands on Earth with only a four-fingered arm aboard. Various parties race to possess this lone limb both to discover its Frankenstein-like secrets and to prevent it from harming humans as it crawls along its way. Crandall provides an introduction and an afterword to his novelization that sets it in the context of his own struggles with the power-and failure-of science to reconstitute the human body from spare parts through organ transplantation. Verdict The novel's too-contrived language ("cretaceous reptilian carnivore," "petrochemical multi-use furniture modules") stretches credulity, and the protracted story often plods along tediously, but Moody does combine Kurt Vonnegut's masterly black humor with the apocalyptic scenery of B-movies and the postmodern playfulness of Neal Stephenson and David Foster Wallace in an ironic tale of humanity's foibles. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/10.]-Henry L. Carrigan Jr., Evanston, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A rollicking romp through deep space and Arizona alike, improbable and thoroughly entertaining, courtesy of master storyteller Moody (Right Livelihoods, 2007, etc.).Mash up Isaac Asimov with Thomas Pynchon, with dashes of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, and you begin to approach Moody's madcap view on the world. His near-future tale opens in 2024 with a sad sack of a writer named Montese Crandall, whoshades of Twitterous tweetshas been perfecting the art of reducing an epic to a single line: "We went with the stealth bomber," and "Last one home goes without anesthesia." Crandall is quite proud of this, exulting, "I, Montese Crandall, M.F.A., write very short, very condensed literary pieces, and by short, I mean very, very short." Well, the insiderish, self-referential joke's on us, for Moodyor, better, Crandallthen proceeds to deliver a massive shaggy dog of a tale, a novelization based on an old 1960s grade-Z film called The Crawling Hand. (That film is real, and no one you've ever heard of, apart from maybe Alan Hale of Gilligan's Island fame, is in it.) And why, of that hand, do only four fingers figure? Well, something has happened to the middle of them, along with the corporeal remains of a crew of astronauts unfortunately exploded over the Arizona desert on re-entry from Mars to Earth. Those four fingers make a lethal little package, however, creepy-crawling around and transmitting icky space sicknesses to the inhabitants of terra firma. Moody brings in dozens of characters major and minor, from a chimpanzee to a "fucking ridiculously hot girlfriend" to desert rednecks to astronauts and bureaucrats, and not a one of them wasted; as he gamely intertwines their destinies, he switches mood, voice, register and generally has a grand old time twitting the conventions of science fiction and literary narrative alike. It's a big old goof, but punctuated by telling commentary about the direction society, the planet and literature are all goingwhich, suffice it to say, is not the ideal one.A smart, fun satireJonathan Swift in space, with twists befitting Vincent Price. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.