Whilst being better known as the author of comic books such as Transmetropolitan and RED (which has since been adapted into a series of films), Warren Ellis has also branched out into noel writing.
His first novel, Crooked Little Vein, released in 2007 tackled the detective genre and was both hilarious and ridiculously plotted.
He then began work on a follow-up novel, Listener which was apparently lost then abandoned. So it was not until 2013 that another of his novels saw the light of day.
Gun Machine tackles the crime genre once again. This time the story follows the washed-up detective John Tallow as he tries to uncover the truth about a roomful of guns, each of which is linked to a separate murder.
The writing is excellent and there are some genuinely laugh out loud moments and lovely imagery. The characters are well crafted and it manages to avoid most of the clichés of the genre.
Despite his trademark flourishes not-too-distant-future technology, this is a far cry from police procedurals such as CSI where everything is solved in a lab. In many ways, this is the antithesis of that in that the whole concept is you can commit grave crimes and get away with it, whereas “The lesson of ‘CSI’ is: No matter what horrible things happen, nice policemen will turn up and fix everything and return it to the status quo.”
This is a very enjoyable read, with some interesting and entertaining characters. The prose is great and the story compelling.
The one criticism I have with the book is that the ending is wrapped up awfully nicely and relatively quickly. As you get to the last 50 or so pages you realise that things are going to start wrapping up pretty quickly and it doesn’t feel sufficiently satisfying. Given the menace and aura of the main character it felt that it should have ran on for another couple of hundred pages or so.
Then again, it is perhaps for this reason why there are currently talks to turn this book into a TV show, which if done correctly should be excellent. In the meanwhile, read this book.