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Gun, with occasional music Paperback

4.3 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571209599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571209590
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.7 x 17.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 141 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,460,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Chandleresque, hard-boiled detective narrative finds a quirky new milieu in this SF/mystery/farce of murder and mass mind control set in a near-future Oakland, Calif. Conrad Metcalf is a private dick, but in his era that profession is even more ignominious than in the past. Due to some extreme governmental measures aimed at maintaining public docility, asking questions is taboo, leaving memory as Metcalf's sole resource. Government-distributed "Make," a cocaine-like blend of synthetic, mind-altering drugs, is now de rigeur . So is the magnetic card each citizen carries to keep track of his or her karma points. These points are awarded or docked by "the Office" for good or bad behavior and if the balance hits zero, a cryogenic prison term may ensue. Most of the menial work is done by genetically engineered English-speaking, bipedal "evolved" animals--sheep, apes, rabbits and kangaroos--and one of the latter is gunning for Metcalf. In this confusing age, the murder of Dr. Maynard Stanhunt, Metcalf's former client, leads the detective to a convoluted conspiracy, unimaginable in our own time. Lethem's invocation of Chandler often wears a bit thin--the prose here is a good deal clumsier than the real thing, and this sort of imitation has already been done too often. Still this colorful first novel is a fast and lively read, full of humorous visions and outlandish predicaments.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

From Library Journal

Private detective Conrad Metcalf finds himself the victim of an official inquisition when the murder of a former client and an obvious cover-up attempt lead him into dangerous political territory. Set in a near-future where only police and detectives are licensed to ask questions and where drugs to suppress memory are commonplace, this first novel imparts a new meaning to the word mystery . Spare prose and tight plotting create a taut sf thriller that should appeal to both sf and mystery fans.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Gun, With Occasional Music" is my first Jonathan Lethem book, and it certainly won't be my last. Although reading just one of his books hardly ranks me as an expert on his career, I will say that this story about a private detective in a future, dystopian nightmare will probably be one of the most unusual experiences you'll ever have with a book (unless you make a habit of reading quirky, ultra bizarre fiction). Lethem must have been the product of a union between Raymond Chandler and William Burroughs, with genetic material donated by Dashiell Hammett and Aldous Huxley. That's the only way to describe this amazing blend of noir, science fiction, and political commentary. "Gun, With Occasional Music" is the type of book you introduce your friends to in order to see their reaction after they finish it.
Lethem's future is one in which I would not want to visit, let alone live in. For private investigator Conrad Metcalf, this nightmare is the only world he knows. What's so bad about this author's horrific visions? In the world of tomorrow, society is quite different from the world we know. For one thing, animals (rabbits, sheep, kangaroos, and cats) now walk upright, speak, commit crimes, and work. It's all a part of what authorities call "evolving," and it isn't just about the animals. Human infants take part in the hijinks as well, since society decided that it takes too long for people to grow up. The result is "babyheads," infants that speak, smoke, and drink thanks to massive infusions of growth hormones. As if that's not enough to cause you screaming fits, and apparently many of the people in this brave new world feel like screaming about it, the authorities provide "make," a drug used to modify behavior.
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Format: Paperback
One of my favoirte books of all time. I love Lethem's gooey mix of scifi and gumshoe fiction. Part satire, part surrealism, with a rapt attention to language, a highly personal style and an utterly unbridled imagination. A dream of a book and a total page-turner. If you can imagine a sultry blonde dame killing her sleeping husband by smothering him with a Magritte painting of dogs playing poker, you'll love it.
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Format: Paperback
Hats off to Jonathon Lethem for fashioning some hardboiled prose that nearly defies any genre with this tale of Conrad Metcalf, Private Inquisitor, not exactly hot on the trail of Celeste, the spouse of an affluent urologist ... but nothing -- and I mean absolutely nothing -- is quite what it seems.
Lethem clearly is channeling Chandler here, and, for that, he deserves much praise, as does much of the novel. Despite whether or not the reader can believe in a world where genetically-enhanced talking kangaroos can tote .45s for nefarious purposes, the power of tale is so overwhelmingly intoxicating that the reader has no choice to accept the peoples, places, and things as entirely plausible. In short, it fits in its own bizarre way, and Metcalf -- as the protagonist -- does his best, despite his own addictions, to keep himself and the plot moving at a pace where the reader has to keep up.
I did find a few sections of the book to be weighted down a bit by some obtuse humor, but, all-in-all, GUN, WITH OCCASIONAL MUSIC (hang on until the end to understand what the title means) was nonetheless fascinating.
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Format: Paperback
Starting from the beginning, Gun, with Occasional Music is ostensibly a detective story in the traditional of Raymond Chandler. That short description is not quite apt, though--it's like saying Beck or Oasis is pop music in the tradition of the Beatles. There are some striking similarities in structure or theme, but the frills are quite different. Lethem's Los Angeles is filled with the products of evolution therapy-- animals that walk on two legs and mostly fill the menial roles (akin to Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality of Mankind) and babyheads, children that have been treated to have adult mental abilities while their bodies still are those of their age. Drugs are legal, available from corner "makers", who can mix your preferred blend like today's tobacconist, from substances called Avoidol, Relaxol, Acceptol, Believol, and, especially, Addictol. People carry around "karma" cards, that contain a collection of points, earned by doing good deeds, and subtracted from when caught in a crime including being rude. Instead of CNN, there's the music news, where one tries to understand if something bad has occurred based on the amount of bassoons or bass in the orchestra. Newspapers are collections of uncaptioned pictures. And people, unless police or licensed private investigators, find it the ultimate in rudeness to ask or be asked a question. Conrad Metcalf may sound like Sam Spade, but the world in which he tries to exist is not conducive to his anti-establishment position.
The murder that Conrad attempts to solve is fairly straightforward, although Lethem does throw in a few really nice twists that fit with his world and the characters.
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