Monday, 21 January 2013

Gun Machine Is A Good Book

Or why you should read Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Detective John Tallow had just killed a man and seen his partner murdered when he stumbles into an apartment full of guns. An apartment full of guns arranged in elaborate patterns on the walls and on the floor and on the ceiling. An apartment full of infamous guns each linked to an unsolved murder spanning decades. An apartment where someone is trying to build a Gun Machine. Now John Tallow must decipher this mechanism and catch a serial killer before he can complete his murder device or begin making a new one.

Gun Machine is a pretty great crime story: its central mystery is darkly compelling, its hero flawed and likeable, its villain fascinating and terrible, and its plot properly suspenseful and exciting. Don't let this endorsement fool you, while Gun Machine is a great crime story, it refuses to conform to expectations on account of it being completely mad. Among other forms of madness, Gun Machine has a sense of humour and fun about it and is able to laugh at absurdity as well as its able to chuckle at the gallows or wallow in the terrifying and horrible. Gun Machine is also interesting, filled with many well researched, granular details about all kinds of nifty topics, from the common place to the futuristic or historical. Gun Machine is the kind of book I absolutely love: eminently readable, quirky and original, and impossible to define. 

Warren Ellis has written some of my favourite comic books, and with Gun Machine, a great novel. If you are a fan of his comics work and unsure if his prose writing is for you, well, there are a lot of favourable parallels. Gun Machine has the big ideas and humour that live in all of his work, as well as  the kind of keenly intelligent central plot Ellis is known for. Actually, Gun Machine reminds me a lot of Fell, Ellis' comic with Ben Templesmith. Both works are detective stories that dig into the horrific debauchery that exists at the borders of our society. Both stories are dark, but also faintly hilarious and absurd and informative. Both detectives Fell and Tallow could be cut from the same world weary cloth. Gun Machine even manages to capture, with the hyper-articulate yet humble prose of Ellis,  some of the visual magic of Ben Templesmith's Fell work (if that makes sense). I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you like Ellis' comic work, particularly Fell, you'll likely enjoy Gun Machine.

Honestly though, Gun Machine is the kind of novel I feel I can recommend to anyone: it's smart, exciting, and just a well written book.

So I Read Crooked Little Vein
So I Read Ignition City
So I Read Fell: Feral City

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