I first became a fan of Rob Krose, also known as “Diesel,” when he was writing a side-splittingly funny blog called Mattress Police. He was also more or less the landlord of Humor-Blogs.com. When he took a hiatus from blogging to promote his first novel, it came as a crushing blow to me. I really depended on the laughs his writing gave me. So I took some consolation when Diesel selected me to receive a free copy of his book, contingent on my promise to give it a snappy review.
Well, I haven’t been so snappy after all. What can I say? In the months since Mattress Police went quiet, I’ve been too depressed to read. I’m coming out of it now. And, perhaps coincidentally, Diesel’s been blogging again. Do you believe in coincidences? That question comes up several times in his book Mercury Falls, and the answers are never what you would expect. Nothing about it is what you would expect. And now that I have finally obtained the right balance of hormones and brain chemicals to be able to read the book, I can appreciate that it’s just as irreverently, quirkily, pop-culture-referentially, snarkily, truthfully, cultural-foible-skeweringly funny as his blog.
Now, if you’re a fundamentalist Christian, it’s probably time for you to leave the room. If you’re a dispensationalist, premillennialist, Zionist, adventist, imminent-Armageddonist, moralist, or the type of person who thinks the Harry Potter books are Satanic, you might want to sit this review out. Also, some people who obsess over Harry Potter, online role-playing games, and anything to do with the Anaheim Angels, had better make sure their sense of humor is engaged before reading this book. It’s the kind of humor that, on a good day, is bound to offend 49.8% of the population. It is, in short, a book after my own heart.
The heroine of the story is one Christine Temetri, a former schoolteacher who has built a journalistic career on a series of magazine articles about end-times-predicting cults and sects. Her editor is a right-wing Christian prophet who secretly believes it is his destiny to be the herald of Armageddon. Her first serious news assignment ends when a missile destroys the building where she is interviewing a top Israeli general, whose dying act is to give her a metal briefcase and tell her to take it to Mercury. She thinks he means the planet until she meets a seven-foot-tall, silver-haired cherub named Mercury — or, at least, a religious wacko who claims to be a cherub. She’s not sure the dying general didn’t mean the planet, even after a pillar of fire from heaven torches the house she and Mercury have just left.
In Diesel’s cosmos, hell is an infernal country club and heaven is a bureaucratic labyrinth going up God-knows-how-many levels. Angels are switching sides all the time, and some of them (like Mercury) hold themselves aloof, “waiting to see how the first-round draft goes.” All anyone knows is that, according to the Schedule of Plagues, Announcements, and Miracles (SPAM, don’t you know), the Apocalypse is about to begin. A series of bestselling, Satanic children’s books has something to do with it. So does a mouth-breathing, cheeseburger-guzzling, 37-year-old dickweed who lives with his mother and happens to be the Antichrist. Everyone seems to want Karl Grissom dead — you would, too, if you had to spend 15 minutes with him — except Christine and, maybe, Mercury. But what can one hack journalist who can’t keep her mind off the linoleum in her breakfast nook do to stop the Apocalypse, with or without the help of a snowman-building, ping-pong-playing, 1990s-pop-song-crooning angel who likes Earth better than he should? What can they do against Lucifer, a heavenly task force armed with bolts of flame, motorcycle-riding cherub assassins, the four laptop computers of the Apocalypse, and a cache of supernatural WMDs that look like tasteless knick-knacks but could tear the entire Mudane Plane to shreds?
Well, watch them and see. And laugh. Laugh at the so-funny-because-it’s-true analysis of the absurdity of predicting the date of the Second Coming. Laugh at the silliness of American cultural Christianity, pointed up as only someone who has been through it can do. Squirm, perhaps, at some of uncomfortably weird theology and cosmology coming from an author who, I must nevertheless believe, is a Christian with his head screwed on right. Snicker while you squirm — an effect common to so much comedy these days — because, if you’ve been reading Mattress Police, you’ll recognize many details of Diesel’s portrait of heaven and hell as point-by-point allegory of his observations on life in the professional world. TV’s sitcom “The Office” is funniest to those who have worked in similar situations. Mercury Falls takes that same deeply funny experience to a trasncendent level.
Before I buy this book for all my fundamentalist Christian friends and relatives (so I can rub their noses in it), and for some of my non-fundamentalist Christian loved ones (so they can laugh along with me), I want to leave you with a quote that, I hope, will give you an idea of the flavor of Diesel’s humor and the childlike, angelic charm of his hero.
“No worries,” Mercury said. “I think I’ve figured out a way for everyone to live happily ever after.””Everybody?”
“Well, almost everybody. And not so much happy as only mildly disgruntled.”
“And the ‘ever after’ part?”
“Actually,” said Mercury thoughtfully, “it’s more like ‘for the very short term future.’ So, to modify my original statement slightly, I’ve probably found a way to keep almost everyone from becoming more than mildly disgruntled for the very near future.”
Many people may never hear about Diesel’s hilarious book. Some may be more than mildly disgruntled by it. May you be among those in between, who experience for yourself the spiritually healing power of laughter… even if some of it is at yourself. Don’t expect the earnestness of a Left Behind novel, or the chaste pastiness of a church-library-friendly piece of religious fiction. Prepare, instead, for a test of whether an adult fantasy about Armageddon can pull the nose of American Christianity without taking a dump on the faith once delivered. I would like to chat with Diesel sometime about precisely where he is coming from. But where he’s going is clear. Based on this first novel, I see a great career in humorist fiction in store for him.