Thursday, August 07, 2014

Book Report: Gun Machine, By Warren Ellis

     It's an unusual book, unusally well-written, a kind of literary pulp cop novel: an NYPD detective chances on an apartment wallpapered with guns, each of which has been used in an unsolved murder...  But there's a lot more to it than that as the mystery unfolds.

     Turk Turon recommended the book and sent me a copy.  It was a good suggestion.  About halfway through, I read the bio: Warren Ellis is the writing half of the team that dreamed up the graphic-novel series Transmetropolitian, featuring a kind of supercharged Hunter S. Thompson (are you skeered?  You otta be!) tilting at windmills and possibly making it out alive.  Gun Machine is a different kind of book, with characters a little larger than life presented against a carefully-drawn, realistic background.  It teeters on the edge of supernatural detective fiction throughout and ultimately-- But that would be telling.

     Having read Gun Machine, I tried his other bit of prose fiction, Crooked Little Vein. Very NSFW -- one reviewer suggested it was "not for the faint of heart," and I'd second that even if you don't faint much.  Another detective novel, with a protagonist who describes himself as a "crap-magnet" and proceeds to attract a whole lot of crap in the process of finding something unlikely at the behest of -- and with a large cash advance from -- someone unpleasant.  If you are squeamish or easily squicked, don't buy a ticket for this ride.  But it is skillfully, even engagingly told and all's well that ends well, for a rather wide set of values of wellness. Ellis is a Briton and it affects this book; I don't think a U. S. citizen would have conceived of the McGuffin he uses nor made it fly.  But grant him that one unlikely thing and....  "Ripped from the (clickbait) headlines," raw and red.

     As for Gun Machine, if you liked Travis McGee but wondered what kind of adventures Meyer might have had, this might be a book for you.  If you enjoyed Lovecraft but wondered who it was had to clean up after his protagonists had been got by whatever gloppy horror pursued them, it might be a book for you.  I liked it.

     Graphic novel writing tends toward pulp and often not the good kind.  If these novels are any guide, Warren Ellis stands levitatingly well above the herd.

5 comments:

Loki1776 said...

I started reading Crooked Little Vein. I'm not easily squicked. Oh. Em. Gee.

Roberta X said...

Uh, yeah. ...Try not to imagine it as a graphic novel....

Turk Turon said...

I'm glad you liked Gun Machine!

Tony said...

Thanks for the tip. Been a fan of Ellis since his "Stormwatch" days but this one passed me by. "Crooked Little Vein" is a trip...

Wouter de Waal said...

Thanks! Read _Gun Machine_ last week (the road to the hunt was long) and it's great. _Vein_ up next.