4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Big Sleep,
This review is from: The Big Sleep: A Philip Marlowe Mystery (Penguin Fiction) (Paperback)
I think it's fair to say that 'The Big Sleep' was the novelistic progenitor of noir, and established a tough-edged and metaphor heavy voice as the de facto narrative tone of the hard boiled genre. If you're familiar with the rough, first-person voice-over in films like Sin City or even the voice-over edit of Blade Runner: well, this is the book that spawned that style.
It's also a book that has got by on its style rather than its substance: but that's not the backhanded compliment it sounds, because Chandler was a master of style. The novel has some depth (there's a fixation with opening and closing doors that's both visually interesting and metaphorically loaded: an opened door can be a scintillating invitation or an act of trespass and violence; in Chandler's mind, both at once. Plus some protagonists are now firmly established genre archetypes, and it's always nice to know where these things come from); but, let's be honest, I read The Big Sleep to earn literary cool points - The Big Sleep being the academically acceptable face of pulp fiction.
I highly recommend 'The Big Sleep'; its tough, agressive, violent and un-sympathetic plot makes it a hard and dark reading experience; but the book is so influential that its effects can be felt everywhere: from early hardboiled crime fiction, through to Paul Auster's 'The New York Trilogy' or even The Rebus novels by Ian Rankin ('Scottish Noir', as it's sometimes called). Even if you find the plot tame and uncomplicated by modern crime standards, this is a book that's worth reading, just so you can see where it all began. Interesting for literary history dorks (like me!) or just fans of cool, stylish and effortlessly sharp writing.