There are people who have a story to tell and then there are storytellers. Jonathan Lethem is a storyteller as Gun, with Occasional Music
clearly shows--but he's also a craftsman and it's the latter quality that is on display in this, his first novel, though not the first in print in the UK. In previously available (but later) works, Lethem's craftsmanship has come into its own: like Don DeLillo or film maker Hal Hartley, he's a master of characters in absurd situations, as well as absurd characters in sane situations. But his debut shows a different side of Lethem and while still enjoyable, Gun
is a prime example of an author getting through the difficult first novel, a storyteller still learning to use his tools.
A Chandler-esque piece of detective noir by way of Philip K Dick or Eric Garcia (Anonymous Rex, Gun is the story of private inquisitor Conrad Metcalf, a down-on-his-luck detective in a world not too different from our own. That is, if you discount the evolved animals and babies (called babyheads), a public injunction against asking questions, self-tailored drugs and the reliance on mortal karma as a criminal deterrent. There's a girl, a gun, a mysterious crimelord and some heavies on both sides of the law to deal with; the usual suspects are all present and accounted for. So too is the stylised dialogue:
She and Stanhunt had been freshly separated and the electricity between them had still been going strong--back when Stanhunt was still capable of generating electricity. Now there was a blackout. I wondered if the lady behaved any differently in the dark. I wondered if maybe she was the one who cut the wires.
It's only the knowing tone--the fact that the author realises just how silly all of this is and has some fun with it--that saves this book from being a fourth-rate Chinatown
. In Motherless Brooklyn
, Lethem revisits crime with better results; and does science fiction better in Girl in Landscape
. --Randy Silver
--This text refers to the
"Marries Chandler's style and Philip K. Dick's vision...an audaciously assured first novel!"--"Newsweek" "Marvelous...a stylish, intelligent, darkly humorous and highly readable entertainment."--"San Francisco Examiner" "Sharp, funny, visionary."--Jill Eisenstadt, author of "Far Rockaway"
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.