Gun, with occasional music Paperback
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From Publishers Weekly
Lethem's first novel is a work of noir science fiction inhabited by animal gangsters and a gritty futuristic P.I.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback 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 an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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. Moreover, people can make their own blends of the drug, adding such great substances as forgettol so they don't have to remember their miserable existence. Those brave souls who wish to challenge the system, or the innocents just caught in police nets, face the dread terror of the inquisitors. This secret police directorate possesses the power to ask questions, arrest people, and carry out sentences that include freezing people for years in a sort of cryogenic state. Conrad Metcalf is a private inquisitor, a former member of the secret police who struck out on his own after his disillusionment with the system led to an early retirement.
Now Metcalf has another case, one that promises to be a real doozy. After a doctor turns up dead in a seedy motel room, a client named Orton Angwine turns up on Metcalf's doorstep. Angwine claims he had nothing to do with the murder, and he wants Metcalf to clear him from the looming cloud of suspicion. Metcalf's subsequent investigation leads him through a labyrinth of underworld types, corrupt doctors, a jilted wife, a cranky babyhead, a kangaroo with a grudge, and inquisitors who would rather see this case disappear forever. Whatever happens in the end, Metcalf must tread a fine line during his investigation because if his personal karma drops to zero he will find himself facing a six year snooze in a cryogenic tank. As Conrad homes in on the murderer, he discovers his noirish wisecracks bring more trouble than answers. The future is a dangerous place, and Conrad Metcalf is right in the middle of it without an umbrella.
You really must love the dialogue in this book. It crackles with snappy comebacks and hooked barbs, all done in a grand tradition which states that detectives in crime noir stories must speak in clever metaphors and insults. What makes it so jarring here is when Metcalf trades verbal jabs with a gun-toting kangaroo named Joey Castle. In "Gun, With Occasional Music," dialogue assumes an added dimension when you realize that the only people allowed to ask questions in the future are inquisitors, thus the reason that Conrad often frets over his inadequate responses when grilling someone for information. His stock and trade is not as a hired gun or bodyguard per se; it literally involves possessing the necessary verbal acumen to properly make inquiries and to look good while doing so. Lethem studied and mastered the style of the noir masters before writing this book, and it shows on virtually every page.
"Gun, With Occasional Music" is weirdness incarnate, but at the same time it is immensely amusing. The best recommendation I can give you is to pay close attention to the various characters Metcalf runs into during the course of his investigation. The twists and turns of the Angwine case are monumental, and easily lost track of amidst the strange scenery Lethem throws at you with unremitting frequency. This book really is one that requires a second reading because there is so much going on. The conclusion is an interesting one that wraps the plot up just as a good noir story should. Yep, all in all Lethem's little beast is a great way to spend a few days. For those unaccustomed to the joys of warped fiction, Jonathan Lethem exists to show you the way.
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.
Now, if you watch "Between the Lions" at all, use your best "My name is Spud, Sam Spud..." voice to read that and you'll know just what I mean.
Lethem's got a heck of an imagination too. Metcalf's world has evolved animals in addition to the regular people, and Lethem really knows where to insert them. There's a kitten who gives Metcalf the opportunity to use the line: "Hello, little girl." There are rabbits in the dentist's office and an Irish Setter who delivers for the local deli. Good stuff.
This book is going to be so much fun to finish. I hope I can make it last more than a day or two!
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