Warren Ellis’s Gun Machine

I read Gun Machine in about six hours, all told. It’s a quick, engrossing read.

I …

I have to say, initially I was reading this more on faith and goodwill than on genuine interest. While I’ve adored Ellis’s comics work, I found his previous novel, Crooked Little Vein, to be Not My Thing. I did not appreciate some of the more aggressive oddness in the book. (That’s always been the quality of Ellis’s work that I merely tolerated, in exchange for his rich character development, deep humanism, and enthusiastic futurism. The abiding weirdness is not my favorite feature.)

When I started Gun Machine I was pleased to note that, while the Assertive Strange was present, it was at Fell or Transmetropolitan levels. Something I could accept, in short. And, as I read on, even that mellowed into something that reminded me strongly of Neal Stephenson’s work.

In Neal Stephenson’s books there are always scenes in which the narrator understands what is happening, but is describing it to the reader in a way that emphasizes how this everyday task is actually quite alien. Gun Machine is a bit like this. The narrators are immersed in their worlds to the point that the reader is a foreigner, learning as we go. I enjoyed this. I found the characters to be strong enough, compelling enough, that I wanted to ride along with them through this strange New York City.

So there I was, enjoying the book in a sort of mildly pleased way. And then I hit Chapter 22. And I sat up, and I made a muffled “oh” sound, and all the hair on my arms stood up. And I finished the second half of the book without stopping.

I really liked this book.

I am always a bit wary of recommending Warren Ellis works. They are not to everyone’s taste. However. If you like his other work? YES. You will like this book. Also, if you like Neal Stephenson’s books. Also, if you like the police procedural edge of urban fantasy, and don’t mind the removal of the fantasy elements. Gun Machine has something in common, tone-wise, with noir, with cynical cops and forces above a decent detective’s pay grade. But it also has a pervasive sense of odd. A sense that there’s something really nasty just out of sight. That Something Nasty doesn’t turn out to be supernatural or cthulhuoid, as I half-expected, but it feels throughout as thought it might.

If I had to call this something, I might call it Weird Noir.


Gun Machine. It’s good. Very good. If you’re the sort of person who likes this sort of thing, it’s exactly the sort of thing you will like.


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