Friday, August 10, 2007

Crooked Little Vein

This is a nasty little book. Anyone who has read the comics of Warren Ellis will find themselves on familiar ground with this, his first prose novel. The story is simple enough: Mike McGill, our hero, must search through the sordid underbelly of America to find, well, a McGuffin, really. The true highlight of the book isn't the plot, it's watching Ellis debate with himself, using the voice of the book's main characters, about whether or not the future is headed toward hell in a handbasket. Ellis has interesting ideas about the future of our culture and watching that debate can be a heady experience.

Reading this novel brought home a point that I'd always suspected but never quite grasped before: like the best mystery writers, and despite the cynicism and bravado on display in his prose, Ellis is a Romantic. One can see evidence of this is his best comics series, Planetary, Transmetropolitan, et al.

If I have any complaints, it's that this very brief book is paced too quickly. Ellis is writing about the great expanse of America, but the pacing barely gives any sense of the country's size. And the pacing also makes the climax of the book slide by almost unrecognized. But this is a minor quibble and wouldn't keep me from recommending it. This book is not for the faint of heart, but for those who can stomach it, it is well worth the read.

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