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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lethem in the rough
It seems that all I ever read these days is Jonathan Lethem and bizarro authors like Carlton Mellick III. The bizarro guys are pretty good and fun to read in a freaky surreal-ish kind of way, but they aren't master craftsmen of the written word. Lethem is. Gun, with Occasional Music is his first book, but probably the 7th I have read. After getting used to the style of...
Published on 24 Jan 2007 by may hurtyou

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3.0 out of 5 stars "An evolved sheep was killed. I found the body..."
This was Lethem's debut book and one has to admire his ambition at the very least. It's set in a future American city. The scientific gene advances have enabled animals to become almost human, with voices and human intelligences. But they are, if you like, the equivalent of the new black race, suspected and looked down upon. There is a new prison system too, you don't now...
Published on 24 Nov 2012 by Eileen Shaw


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lethem in the rough, 24 Jan 2007
This review is from: Gun, with Occasional Music (Paperback)
It seems that all I ever read these days is Jonathan Lethem and bizarro authors like Carlton Mellick III. The bizarro guys are pretty good and fun to read in a freaky surreal-ish kind of way, but they aren't master craftsmen of the written word. Lethem is. Gun, with Occasional Music is his first book, but probably the 7th I have read. After getting used to the style of his recent work I can really tell how strong his writing has become. He is an excellent author. Even with his first book, you can tell he is an excellent author. But he has definitely improved over time.

PROS: 1) If you like classic crime noir and weird science-fiction, you'll love this book. It is a mixture of those two. Basically, it is just your usual old time crime novel set in a future of mutants and intelligent anthropomorphic animals 2) The mystery unfolds quite nicely. Not only the mystery of the plot, but also the mystery surrounding this odd world Lethem has created. 3) Once you get into it you won't be able to put it down.

CONS: 1) While the writing is good, it is still pretty mediocre in comparison to any of his other works. 2) It was originally published by a sci-fi genre publisher, so it feels like run-of-the-mill genre fiction. So if you are a fan of the literary elements of Lethem's work more than the sci-fi elements you might be disappointed. 3) Though it was intentional, the characters are pretty cliche to that of classic detective stories. This might be a good thing or bad thing. Since I am not a fan of detective fiction, it was more of a con for me.

Overall, I give this book 4 stars. It is definitely worth reading. It's just not as good as most of Lethem's other work. I might have enjoyed it a bit better than As She Climbed Across The Table, but it wasn't as unique and smart as that book. Casual readers might like this one best, so start with here if you don't read a lot of literary fiction. Otherwise, start with Girl in Landscape or Motherless Brooklyn.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Genre-Bender!, 19 Nov 2001
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Excellent melange of hardboiled Raymond Chandleresque crime story with wild Philip K. Dick/William gibson futurist vision. The mystery follows an archetypical hardboiled Oakland PI as he doggedly pursues the truth in a seedy, labyrinthine case. In this dystopic vision of the future, only the police and PI's are allowed to ask questions and everyone carries a "karma" card which the police can add or deduct from as they see fit. Zero karma and you get sentenced-to years in cold storage. Genetic engineering has led to talking animals (who are definitely not first-class citizens) and bizarre gangsterish babies who have their own clubs! An awesome blend of genres which results in something all its own. If you like this, try William Gibson's Virtual Light too.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bizzare, first class cybermystery noir thing, that rocks., 29 Aug 2001
By A Customer
This is probably my all time favorite book. This novel is pretty much what would happen if brave new world and any Raymond Chandler book got mixed up. Of course, that being said, you don't get stuck with Huxley's heavy handed moralizing about the future. And the main character, Conrad Metcalf, has a moral base that's a bit lower than Chandler's Philip Marlowe. But so far I haven't really mentioned anything you couldn't pick up off the back cover if you were in an offline bookstore. Gun with occasional music is a noir mystery set in an unrecognizable future- I can't even begin to plot a course between now and then. It's quite bizzare. Talking Animals, children replaced by accelerated growth babies (Trust me; I'm not up to explaining that one), flying antigrav pens, the musical news (no words on the radio), the pictorial news (no words in the newspaper), and a cute police officer named Catherine Teleprompter. I don't want to give too much away though. Another element I should add is that the likelihood that the title for Radiohead song Karma Police probably owes the phrase to this book-- people have a credit card of sorts with their karma point on them, which are modified up and down by the local law enforcement agents. There's a murder. It takes place in San Fransisco. There's a gorgous beraved wife. A kangaroo gangster a little fresh behind the ears. Oh, and you have to have a license to ask questions. It's fun, it's entertaining, it's deep, but not in a way to ruin the rest of your week. Check it out. Apparently none of my paragraph breaks went through.
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3.0 out of 5 stars "An evolved sheep was killed. I found the body...", 24 Nov 2012
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gun, with Occasional Music (Paperback)
This was Lethem's debut book and one has to admire his ambition at the very least. It's set in a future American city. The scientific gene advances have enabled animals to become almost human, with voices and human intelligences. But they are, if you like, the equivalent of the new black race, suspected and looked down upon. There is a new prison system too, you don't now go to jail to be a further drain upon society, you are cryogenically frozen for the term of your sentence. You are stripped of the karmic points on your life-card. On release you receive a fair number to allow you to start building up the karma again. Sounds almost humane doesn't it?

Conrad Metcalfe is a private inquisitor (the police are all inquisitors now) - one of the very few remaining private eyes. The dialogue is fast though only infrequently lives up to the Raymond Chandler model. When a man called Orton Angwine asks for help - a man with zero karma, Conrad knows there is little he can do. "When the Inquisitor's Office set your card at zero, it meant you couldn't get caught slamming the door to a public rest room without sinking into a negative karmic level." And Orton Angwine has been accused of murder.

I found it fun at one level, with the inventive use of notions such as children treated at birth to gain an adult's learning abilities in their first three years(Babyheads). But this is one of the ideas that are only peripherally delivered. Solving the case of Orton Angwine takes precedence. The trouble is it takes forever. Conrad drives here, he drives there, he has inconclusive conversations with half a dozen people and it just goes nowhere. I liked the ideas but the energy ran out of the action around halfway through, even given Dulcie the sheep. I much prefer Lethem's later work, especially the wonderful Motherless Brooklyn.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't judge Lethem by this book, 12 Nov 2002
If you thought Motherless Brooklyn a superb novel you are likely to investigate Lethem territory further. This his first novel appealingly promised to combine the noir genre with science fiction but I was in for a disappointment.
Written with an ironic twist in classic Chandler style it is entertaining but the science fiction is not good. Control of society through drugs and karma credit cards plus the threat of being put in the freezer is not very original (and Ray Loriga’s Tokio Ya No Nos Quiere offered a far darker use of memory-deleting drugs). The cast of grotesque babyheads out of a Victorian fair on one hand, and evolved talking-and-working animals on the other, if amusing were as cartoon-like as Metcalf himself and required great doses of suspension of disbelief. As for the noir part, suffice to say that the mystery of the murder was not difficult to work out.

Don’t expect the deep humanity of Motherless Brooklyn, the novel does not linger in your mind at all after you have finished it. If anything, leave it for the beach.
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Gun, with Occasional Music
Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem (Paperback - 2 Dec 2004)
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