Friday, March 1, 2013

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

GUN MACHINE by former graphics novelist Warren Ellis is a pulp police thriller with the gritty feel of the movie Sin City. In this case the city is New York, specifically Manhattan, with the added dimension of what the author refers to as "ghost maps," a kind of I.T. shorthand for the informational grid that secretly forms boundaries between jurisdictions, related in part to camera surveillance and to computer response time (as well as historical relevance.) Amid the highly charged debate going on in Washington involving gun violence, the story has been released on audio with a plot involving a detective named John Tallow who stumbles upon an apartment containing a mountain of weapons, each one involved in a different unsolved murder. That this should be in New York, where carrying guns is banned, adds to the novel's intensity. The killer that Tallow trades wits with is called "the hunter," a man-devil whose presence has aided powerful Wall Street despots, and who has secret motives of his own. Reg E. Cathey is the ideal narrator for the story, with his harsh nicotine voice and ability to charge the characters with believable voices. For at least the first half, it's more of an acting performance than a reading. By the end he's back to what might be typical of a more prolific reader, presumably because you've got the picture by then. If you like James Patterson, with his characteristic short sentences and punchy dialogue, you'll love Gun Machine. Not everything is totally believable about the story, including the ultimate motive of the hunter, but you'll be willing to suspend disbelief for the duration. It's not literature (for that you have James Lee Burke), but if you're looking for weird, zany, gutsy (and don't cringe at the F word), it is an original twist on the overworked serial killer theme. 

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