Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060566685
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/15/2004
Series: Harper Perennial
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 301,677
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Christopher Moore is the author of the novels Secondhand Souls, Sacré Bleu, A Dirty Job, and Lamb. He lives in San Francisco, California.


Hawaii and San Francisco, California

Date of Birth:

August 5, 1958

Place of Birth:

Toledo, Ohio

Read an Excerpt


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, but Nate 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 ...

Fluke. Copyright © by Christopher Moore. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Table of Contents

Part 1The Song1
Part 2Jonah's People117
Part 3The Source203
Author's Notes313

Reading Group Guide


Biologist Nate Quinn is obsessed with one question: Why do humpback whales sing? All his research in the waters off Maui revolves around his quest to find the answer. He's got help: His loyal partner, photographer Clay Demodocus; his attractive new research assistant, Amy Earhart; Kona, a wanna-be Rastafarian with a knack for intuitive leaps of scientific thinking (even while stoned); a dotty old benefactress; and a ragtag cast of deep-sea divers, fellow scientists, an ex-wife and her girlfriend.

Everything's going swimmingly for Quinn until he spots the strangest thing. Is he losing it, or did he see the words "Bite Me" on a whale's tail? He snaps a picture, but when the film comes back the crucial frame is missing. Quinn gets even more confused when his benefactress, Elizabeth, tells him she got a phone call from a whale, who'd like a hot pastrami and Swiss on rye. Huh?

One afternoon, while trying again to get the "Bite Me" on film, Quinn is swallowed by the "Bite Me" whale, which isn't really a whale at all, but a whale-like ship piloted by humanoid whale-creature (whaley boys) and occupied by thousands of other humans.

While his friends mourn his death, Quinn is spirited from one whale ship to another, and finally to "Gooville," where much is revealed to Quinn. Inextricably imbedded in the science he's so doggedly pursued his whole career, Quinn finds magic. Eventually, he returns to life on top of the sea, instead of beneath it, but nothing ever looks quite the same again.

Topics for Discussion

  1. Is the thrill of discovery what motivates scientists to stick to their work, day after day?

  2. Sexuality is a prominenttheme in the book. Did you find the sexuality of the whaley boys offensive? Funny? Do you think it's a commentary on traditional human sexual mores?

  3. The author has a very distinct writing style, especially when it comes to dialogue and his characters' tendency for flip banter, even in the midst of serious conversations and situations. Do you find this treatment distracting, or humorous?

  4. Did this book make you think? What are some of the questions it raised for you?

  5. Did this book make you laugh? Is the author's unique sense of humor one that you can appreciate? Do you like Moore's writing style?

  6. Do you think Moore is delivering an effective message about conservation? Has this book inspired you to change your actions? Or was a concern for the environment one of the things that drew you to the book in the first place?

  7. What do you know about male-female roles in other animal populations? Are human gender roles in line with those of our fellow creatures? And are societal changes in the last several decades something we can attribute to evolution?

About the author

Christopher Moore is the author of Fluke, Lamb, Practical Demonkeeping, Coyote Blue, Bloodsucking Fiends, Island of the Sequined Love Nun, and The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove.

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Fluke 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 225 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a huge christopher moore fan, but this book takes the cake! It is not a typical Moore novel, its better! The charactors are vivid and the ideas are unique. He really creates a world my imagination can live in!
wookietim More than 1 year ago
I have read a few books by moore... not because I sought him out specifically but because his books tend to intersect with my interests. And every time I'm glad I read the book. This one is no different. It starts out slow but by roughly the one third point it has its tendrils around you and forces you to hold onto it until the end. Well worth reading : funny, thoughtful, intelligent and most importantly another solid read out of the author.
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'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This books starts off great- the characters are cute and the language is funny, but then it gets into some serious science fiction. Entertaining, but odd. Nearly gave it up half way through but stuck it out hoping it would make more sense at the end...
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was simply terrible. The humor was lame, the characters were annoying and the plot was too stupid for words. Save yourself and PASS!!!
magric More than 1 year ago
I loved this incredibly imaginative and very funny book when it first came out, and bought it again (Nook version this time) to read on vacation in Hawaii, where Fluke and the whaley boys lurked (In fact, I'm on Kauai, where Christopher Moore once lived.) Just as happened on the first read, I started to dread finishing the book by the time I was halfway through, and am just as sad now that it's done--I really miss Kona and the entire wacky team! What incredible yarns Moore weaves, with even some actual education on the side! Now re-reading Island of the Sequined Love Nun.... long live Christopher Moore!!!
DeDeFlowers More than 1 year ago
I love Christopher Moore. He is definitely in my top five. However, this book was not very good. The characters were very underdeveloped and he humor wasn't even that funny. It was kind of sad. Everything else by him is like an A+, but Fluke is probably like a D.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wasn't prepared for what I undertook. The switch half way through the story caught me off guard, but once I accepted it (kind of like accepting your dead) it flowed and continued to be damn entertaining. Ah, Kona. I love Kona. I live in Hawaii and Kona thus holds a very special place this snowy biscuit's heart. Ire.
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.
Anonymous 8 months ago
You will have a wild ride
kiltedlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book, but I really loved the audio book.
rbtwinky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first experience reading Christopher Moore and I don¿t think that it will be my last. I very much enjoyed his writing style and sense of humor. Several times during the book I laughed loudly enough for people around me to ask what was so funny. I felt the story itself started to lose its draw after Nate left the surface, but the writing was still there. The world that he enters was a little too fantastical, and too much of a shift from what we had been seeing for me, especially with the way those around him acted. But, it was still a highly enjoyable novel.
tairngire on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of Moore's more unique ideas (and that's saying a lot for a writer who works with trickster gods, demons and Jesus's less-than-holy boyhood friend). As interesting for Moore's absurd take on our reality as for the information into the whaling industry and whale's themselves. Though the idea's introduced throughout might do with some deeper speculation and perhaps another novel, the character's and situations are amusing enough to keep the reader's hold with lighter fare.
she_climber on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book as part of a book club selection and I freely admit that this wasn't a book I ever would have picked up on my own to read. I'm glad for the experience but have to say that without Kona this book would have been a total loss for me. I just didn't find it funny (except Kona) or particularly interesting - it was just weird.
-Eva- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This started off pretty dull - no suspicion of anything more than usual goiing on. However, at a certain point of the novel (when Nate gets swallowed by a whale), things take a rather startling turn. I had heard about Christopher Moore because it seems that everyone who reads his books thinks he's hysterical. And they're actually nearly right - OK, so I wouldn't call him "hysterical" per se, but he's quite entertaining and I am definitely going to read more of his books.
Alliebadger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought this was really entertaining. It's a light read that's pretty hard to put down. It gets very weird about halfway through, which sort of threw me off until the weirdness started being explained a little better (which I suppose is to give you the same sort of sensation/thought process as Nate, the character experiencing it). Overall, I definitely recommend. Not to kids, though! :^)
tiddleyboom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this was not my favorite Christopher Moore (see Lamb and Fool), a bad Christopher Moore is still WAY better than just about anything out there... Odd little story, strange twists and turns, funny as hell.
nivramkoorb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is another solid Chistopher Moore novel. An incredibly creative story which showed good research. A little bit too technical in parts but the ultimate vision was very plausible and had the usual funny and interesting characters. I do realize that some Christopher Moore books are better than others but I enjoy his books and hope to read most them(I can live without all the vampire stuff).
LaPhenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't call this a funny book so much as a book with funny parts. I'm not very impressed with my first Christoper Moore book, but from what I heard as I was reading, it's a lot deeper than his other books, and probably not the best book of his to begin with.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have genuinely loved every Moore book I have read, but this novel was missing a certain something. It started out promisingly enough: A whale researcher is treated to the puzzling sight of the words ¿Bite Me¿ clearly printed on the flukes of a diving whale he is photographing. But the follow-through gets a little messy and, quite frankly, strains even my very elastic suspension of disbelief. (I won¿t go into details, lest I spoil it for someone.) I quite enjoyed some of the high theory of the book ¿ ancient war between genes and memes, themes of early life being akin to God, the spirituality of whales ¿ but Moore didn¿t seem to completely follow through on any of these interesting ideas. All in all, a promising story that left me feeling a little unsatisfied.
lindseyrivers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Christopher More is a genius. This is the second book by him I have read and I want to read them all.
topps on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not as good as Lamb. Very imaginative.