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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, if slight
"Inherent Vice" (apparently a term from Maritime Law) is rather uncharacteristic of Thomas Pynchon in many ways. At 370 pages it is short by his standards, and it is entirely lacking in the density and obtuseness of much of his work. It does not have anything like the scope of, say, "Gravity's Rainbow," nor the stylistic difficulties of, especially, "Mason and Dixon,"...
Published on 12 Aug 2009 by Guardian of the Scales

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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars *sigh* A big, big break from traditional Pynchon
*sigh*

I won't summarise the plot. Other people have done that superbly. What I'll offer instead, is my general, uninformed, unexpert take on the book. As someone who's read a reasonable amount of Pynchon, but who is - by no means - a Pynchon fanatic.

I like Pynchon. A lot. I love the depth and complexity of his writing. I love the feeling of...
Published on 15 Mar 2010 by Mrs Quoad


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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, if slight, 12 Aug 2009
This review is from: Inherent Vice (Hardcover)
"Inherent Vice" (apparently a term from Maritime Law) is rather uncharacteristic of Thomas Pynchon in many ways. At 370 pages it is short by his standards, and it is entirely lacking in the density and obtuseness of much of his work. It does not have anything like the scope of, say, "Gravity's Rainbow," nor the stylistic difficulties of, especially, "Mason and Dixon," rather it is a crime novel somewhat in the mould of Elmore Leonard, set in 1969 Los Angeles, just after the Manson murders, which are referred to continually.

The main character is Doc Sportello, a private investigator and habitual imbiber of hashish and other narcotics. He is approximately 29 years old, and espouses hippy ideals while maintaining a healthy distrust for The Man, especially as represented by the LAPD. His favourite words are "Groovy" and "Bummer," depending on the situation. His is an easygoing and well-meaning individual, if somewhat priapic. The plot is set in motion when Doc's ex-girlfriend, for whom he still has feelings- lust, mainly- shows up with an assignment for him, concerning her rich, property-developer new boyfriend, who she believes is under threat. Said boyfriend goes missing, and some other cases turn up which may be related. It's too complicated to go into, but all roads lead Doc to a shadowy entity called Golden Fang, the nature of which promises to hold the key to the mystery.

Unlike most Pynchon novels almost all the mysteries of the plot are eventually explained, and the plot is a fairly standard one for the genre. The tone is relaxed, playfully humorous, and Pynchon's fondness for dubious puns, that somehow seem funny in the context of the book, is much in evidence. It's not a masterpiece, by any means, but it's not supposed to be. It can't really be compared to "Gravity's Rainbow" or the like. Of Pynchon's previous work, its nearest relation would be "Vineland." It's not particularly substantial, but I found "Inherent Vice" a good, quick read, funny and likable, and definitely its author's most accessible work.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Surf, sand, stoners, postmodernism, 5 Aug 2009
By 
emma who reads a lot (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Inherent Vice (Hardcover)
Thomas Pynchon, the reclusive king of American postmodern fiction, likes to keep us waiting: between 1974 and 1990 he published no novels at all. But in the last few years we've been a bit luckier, and given that in late 2006 we got the massive "Against the Day", it's amazing that this summer there's already another Pynchon novel on sale.

"Inherent Vice" is wonderful news for Pynchon fans, but arguably will also bring him a new audience too. All will hopefully be charmed by its Big Lebowski-flavoured story of a private investigator, Doc, operating in LA just as the sixties decade has finished. The plot concerns the various cases Doc takes on (all missing persons of various kinds) and requires concentration to follow, partly because of a multitude of characters ranging from Doc's ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth, to paranoid marine law specialist Sauncho Smilax, to hippy-hating LAPD cop, 'Bigfoot' Bjornsen (addicted to eating frozen chocolate-covered bananas which he keeps in a morgue fridge).

There is the same sense of clever playfulness you always get with Pynchon, though to begin with, you might get lulled into imagining this is simply his fun take on the hard-boiled detective novel of Raymond Chandler & co. But actually this book is probably something more subtle; like his earlier book 'Vineland', which gave such a rich picture of life in Northern California in the eighties, with its paranoia and strange atmospheres, "'Inherent Vice' gets to pose the bigger question about the sixties, which is, where did it get us? And do we all, like Doc, end up 'working for criminals', even when we try not to?

Enjoyable, perplexing, kept making me burst out laughing; a great, intelligent summer book.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars *sigh* A big, big break from traditional Pynchon, 15 Mar 2010
By 
Mrs Quoad (Huddersfield) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Inherent Vice (Hardcover)
*sigh*

I won't summarise the plot. Other people have done that superbly. What I'll offer instead, is my general, uninformed, unexpert take on the book. As someone who's read a reasonable amount of Pynchon, but who is - by no means - a Pynchon fanatic.

I like Pynchon. A lot. I love the depth and complexity of his writing. I love the feeling of ploughing through a deep, rich, fertile text absolutely jam-packed with Significance. Replete with allusions, half-allusions, hintings, suggestions... Comments that you'd need to go 400 pages back, in order to recall the full significance of the full in-text meaning... without beginning to consider what they might otherwise mean in a broader, deeper, fuller context...

I love the fact that I've given up on most Pynchon books at least once. But have always been drawn back to them. Wanting to read them, understand them, approach them, immerse myself in them... to understand at least some of their meaning. With the hope that a second, third, fourth reading will uncover another layer, and another layer, and another layer... I have started Gravity's Rainbow 9 times, and got to the end on three. That isn't because it's a bad book; it's because of the layers of flowing, suggesting, rhythmic density have lost me sometimes... (Usually, fwiw, around the episode with the church / singing in an English midwinter...)

In Inherent Vice, all of that is gone. All of it. What's left reads - to me - like a juvenalia fest. Strip out all the effort, depth, complexity and difficulty from a Pynchon novel, and what have you got left...? The answer seems to be - as someone else has suggested - something remarkably close to Elmore Leonard. A neat, linear, eminently followable storyline with a manageable quantity of characters. All of them behaving slightly zanily, but nothing... Slothrop-esque. There's a conspiracy. But it's not a particularly well-drawn conspiracy (or maybe it's too well-drawn...). Nothing subtle. Nothing half-hidden. Nothing hinting from the shadows, full of murky and sinister suggestion. Just 'ooo, there's this thing called 'Golden Fang,' it keeps on cropping up all over. Ooo.'

Don't get me wrong, it's not completely unreadable. It's lively enough. Stuff happens. It plods along at a reasonable pace.

But I keep on getting this feeling of 'why am I bothering?' This is not the Pynchon I know, love, or appreciate. It's Elmore Leonard through and through. Bish, bash, bosh. Sorted. Yeah, there's a market for Elmore Leonard, great. Fingers crossed, this will - indeed - introduce a new generation to Pynchon. Though god only knows what they'll make of something like V, Mason and Dixon or Gravity's Rainbow after being introduced to his work through this great clumsy lump of Obviousness and Unsubtlety.

But... as someone who wants to read Pynchon because he writes in a different way... to be lost, amazed, bewildered, amused, perplexed, delighted, confounded, confused... this just is not it. Not by a long stretch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Psychedelic Delight, 1 Dec 2013
By 
Ben (Adlington, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Inherent Vice (Paperback)
A good book to read as a Pynchon novice, his renowned intelligent & multifaceted narrative abilities were on show, but not quite to the extent that it became boorish or intimidating. I am thoroughly looking forward to the Paul Thomas Anderson adaptation & hope that the film will be as funny, slick & atmospheric as the novel was.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trippy, man, 9 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Inherent Vice (Paperback)
Great book, can't remember half of it just like Doc seems to blunder through his cases - and I put that as a good thing!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In my end is my beginning, 29 Aug 2010
This review is from: Inherent Vice (Paperback)
For many people, me included, who have read Pynchon throughout their lives, Against the Day seemed like a summation of everything Pynchon had written, from its mix of styles, to its conspiracies, to its manic inventiveness to its behemoth proportions, and it was hard to imagine another epic of that type from an author who was entering his seventies. And indeed Inherent Vice is entirely different. Close to the length and spirit of The Crying of Lot 49, and set in very much the same time and place, it is, pretty much, where the man came in fifty years ago. As many reviewers have noted, it's a parody of the LA detective novel, and that reminds us perhaps that plots, conspiracies, mysteries, and those who set out to unravel them have always been part of Pynchon's stock in trade. But unlike Olivia Mass, or Tyrone Slothrop, the hero of Inherent Vice solves the mystery and drives off in search of more adventures. Yet this upbeat ending is belied by the fact that, unlike the first readers of The Crying of Lot 49, we know what is coming. Nixon is already in the White House, Ronald Reagan is a dark, menacing shadow a decade in the future, and George Bush Jr is an apprentice alcoholic and failed businessman who will become a President to make those who remember the sixties think nostalgically of the Nixon era. In spite of the general lightness of tone, the jokes, the parodies (some very good) and the beautiful prose, there is a sadness about the book, a sense of longing for a past which was in many ways better, before religious nut-cases and psychopathic bankers destroyed what the sixties might have become. Compassion for the lost, defeated and abandoned - the "preterite" of Gravity's Rainbow - has always been a feature of Pynchon's work, and this book - very probably his last - reads in part like a very funny and well-constructed funeral oration for a whole decade, and a whole culture.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars HAZED AND CONFUSED, 16 Jan 2010
By 
This review is from: Inherent Vice (Hardcover)
This book is overrated. It is poor form, perhaps, to criticize a cult writer like Thomas Pynchon, but, trust me, had review copies of "Inherent Vice" been dispatched under the by-line of, say, Raymond Marin or Dashiell Chong, it would have been panned from Dade County to Gordito Beach.

In this late career outing, Pynchon adopts the genre of Southern California noir, setting his book in the drugs and hippie heyday of 1969/70. Doc Sportello is the sole operative of the LSD Detective Agency. Instead of a bottle of whiskey in his lower, left drawer, he maintains numerous stashes of illicit substances. His resulting "doper's memory" is not a great asset to detection, but on the other hand, he hopes that his acid-dropping mind is capable of making extrasensory connections that might elude soberer sleuths. And those bell-bottoms are perfect for concealing a gun.

The story begins conventionally with a chick (not a dame) arriving at Doc's office. This particular (non-paying) client is in fact his ex-girlfriend, now the lover of billionaire developer, Mickey Wolfmann. She is convinced that Wolfmann's English wife plans to have her topped. The plot thickens when Wolfmann disappears, presumed kidnapped, and one of his commendably non anti-Semitic Aryan Brethren bodyguards is killed. The plot continues to thicken and thicken and thicken and thicken. Chandler asserted that the denouement of a detective story must seem inevitable. The only inevitable thing about this narrative is the reader's relief when it is over. Plot and resolution of plot are so fundamental to the detective story at both a literal and existential level that to step into the genre and fail in plot deployment is failure indeed.

Character development is no better. Neither Doc nor any of the other characters, such as the inevitable love-hate police nemesis, Bigfoot Bjornsen, ever rises above (or even up to) the two-dimensional. Pynchon is known for his cartoon like characterization but I am not convinced that this serves as an excuse. There are drugs on virtually every page, but we hear about them from the narrator or through wisecracks in the dialogue. We never get inside the characters nor do we ever get glimpses of the world through an alternative consciousness. Kinky Friedman, the Texas Jewboy (that's a band) does the stoned detective so much better.

"Inherent Vice" is full of signature Pynchon features: lyrics of made-up songs (the reader may safely skip these), allusions to film, silly names (Trillium Fortnight or Special Agents Borderline and Flatwood for example) and acronyms (Doc is pulled over on suspicion of being a POFOCAC OR Potential Focus of Cult Activity), puns and childish jokes ("Driver Ed" is a high school kid, not a course of instruction etc). There is to be sure much excellent writing ranging from the manic to the lyrical - the final half-page is a case in point. However, these passages are best enjoyed by browsing; they lose their appeal on a straight through reading. In the absence of plot momentum and character development, the prose just cannot get up enough speed (or acid?) to lift off the runway.

When a serious writer ventures into genre writing, we do not expect him or her to surpass its established masters. We do expect him to transcend it in some substantial way, which Pynchon fails to do. On page 351, Pynchon explains the technical meaning in the marine insurance world of the term "inherent vice." His eponymous novel is full of them.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inherent Vice, 29 Nov 2009
By 
S. Brown (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Inherent Vice (Hardcover)
Alongside The Crying of Lot 49, Inherent Vice is probably Pynchon's most accessible work. It still has all the typical Pynchonian touches, such as a myriad of unuasually named characters; several amusing songs and bizzare side stories; and concepts and ideas that seem to spread and become more unknowable as the central character (Doc Sportello) gets closer to them - the identity of Golden Fang, the entity at the centre of the novel being the most prominent.

However, it differs from Pynchon's other novels in some important aspects. Immediately notable is the lack of digressive sections or sprawling 100+ word sentences - not necessarily a bad thing, but you do find yourself missing them after a while (I love episodes like Byron the bulb in Gravity's Rainbow). Perhaps most poignant, though, is the fact that the novel has a denouement. This, as readers of Pynchon will realise, is not at all what we have come to expect.

For me these non-Pynchonesque aspects of Inherent Vice do somewhat weaken the novel in comparison to his other works (including the more accessible ones), but perhaps that's because i'm a geek for postmodernism and the way in which the structure and theme of Pynchon's earlier work so beautifully encapsulates concepts of chaos and unknowability. You just don't get this with Inherent Vice.

Having said that, I still loved the novel. There's still plenty here to make it a simultaneously intellectually stimulating and entertaining novel. And, unlike the 'more meaty' novels you can have a couple of beers, rattle off a few chapters and still actually understand what you're reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pynchon light - and great fun with it, 16 Dec 2013
By 
Zebrasoma - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Inherent Vice (Paperback)
Most of Thomas Pynchon's novels rank as truly great literature, but in general they are not easy reading - although they certainly reward those who are prepared to make the effort. Inherent Vice is a much easier book to enjoy - and it is very enjoyable, a noir-ish detective romp set in the late 1960s, which keeps you turning pages and is very, very funny in places. One of the nicest features of it is the way that the characters have a real warmth to them - something that Pynchon is often, unfairly in my opinion, criticised for lacking in the heavier works such as V, Gravity's Rainbow and Mason & Dixon. Inherent Vice reminds me a lot of Vineland, which is another really entertaining and easy read, although like Vineland it hasn't found much favour with serious critics. A film of Inherent Vice is in production (not something that could be attempted easily with most Pynchon novels), which should be great, particularly as Paul Thomas Anderson is directing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I Wanted More!, 6 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Inherent Vice (Paperback)
I took this away as my holiday/please-lord-almighty-give-me-some-inspiration book. It didn't disappoint on the inspiration but I do recall being pretty underwhelmed at the ending. That could entirely be put down to the fact that I would be returning home shortly, and like the reading experience, I was in no rush to find myself back in reality.
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Inherent Vice
Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon (Paperback - 5 Aug 2010)
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