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Gun, With Occasional Music When down and out private inquisitor Conrad Metcalf s last client turns up dead, Metcalf takes up the case to find out who killed him Can he find the killer before he runs out of karma and winds up in the deep freeze If Raymond Chandler and Philip K Dick spent an evening together doing hard drugs, this would be the book that would result Lethem weaves together the sci fi and noir elements together so tightly that an evolved kangaroo doesn t seem out of place after his first appearance.The wor When down and out private inquisitor Conrad Metcalf s last client turns up dead, Metcalf takes up the case to find out who killed him Can he find the killer before he runs out of karma and winds up in the deep freeze If Raymond Chandler and Philip K Dick spent an evening together doing hard drugs, this would be the book that would result Lethem weaves together the sci fi and noir elements together so tightly that an evolved kangaroo doesn t seem out of place after his first appearance.The world of Gun, with Occasional Music, is a bleak totalitarian version of a future California A future where everyone carries cards noting how much karma they have When you run out of karma, you wind up in deep freeze for a period of years A scientist named Twostrand invented a process to create evolved bipedal animals out of ordinary ones like kittens, kangaroos and sheep Eventually the process was tried on babies, creating the grotestque babyheads Almost everyone is addicted to a free drug called make that s used to keep the populace under control Interested yet Metcalf s case is a pretty standard one but Lethem injects it with freshness Metcalf is the prototypical noir private eye with a self deprecating sense of humor More than once, he congratulates himself on his use of metaphor Gun, with Occasional Music, reminds me of the movie Hot Fuzz in that it s both a satire of noir and also one of the better 30 s style noir novels I ve read in recent memory, much like Hot Fuzz was for action movies You wouldn t think that a book featuring a gun toting kangaroo would be a good example of noir but the proof is in the pudding.I d recommend Gun, with Occasional to fans of noir, bizarro, Philip K Dick, and other strangeness Book, with constant boredom Answers, with no questions Questions, with no answers on the tips of tongues or inside cheeks maybe ass cheeks Music, with no tone Gun, with no bullets Who signed off on the license D j vu that reminds of nothing Is that the appeal of genres to remind of nothing and feel the welcoming coma with dreams that someone else plants there and you wake up before you can see anyone s faces The eye from that book, the nose from this Make me look beautiful But Book, with constant boredom Answers, with no questions Questions, with no answers on the tips of tongues or inside cheeks maybe ass cheeks Music, with no tone Gun, with no bullets Who signed off on the license D j vu that reminds of nothing Is that the appeal of genres to remind of nothing and feel the welcoming coma with dreams that someone else plants there and you wake up before you can see anyone s faces The eye from that book, the nose from this Make me look beautiful But I liked you before I like some of Lethem s books a whole lot Some are on my favorites shelf That doesn t mean I liked this at all or make allowances for first time authors Boredom is boredom Side parenthetical over Paul Auster called He wants his book back from the discount pile Chandler, Dick and all the other genre y hard boiled The statuesque blonde had to pick my doorway to stand in and suck out all of my secondhand smoke before I could get hard stuff I hate called and reminded me that I try to never read this kind of thing If they are using the formula it has to be because they don t want to be different The answers are built in Or is that the questions Naivete called and it wanted its easyness back Sense and cynicism called They wanted their basis of reality back My life called and said that it wanted itself back from me.A tragic waste of time yes I said it TRAGIC It s a detective novel that asks no questions It doesn t answer questions so much as pretend to answer them with hard boiled dialogue that breaks before it can be snappyTruth and justice, I said I wonder if you really know what the hell it is you re talking about, or whether words just keep pouring out because of the thing they did to your brain Truth and justice Nice, easy wordsBabies and animals have been genetically modified They are called evolved Evolved from what, and for what purpose Metcalf is a private investigator or inquisitor there s not enough distinction A dying breed without going into what it used to be like People don t ask questions except for the inquisitors vaguely sci fi gestapo like cops You ll end up frozen Han Solo style if they don t like your answers Prison, if you re lucky enough to know people with enough moneyIt meant waking up with a monkey on my back, but hell, it was my monkeyNo, this does not pass for reasoning But WHY Just because it sounds like it sucks Do you mean that people numb themselves to make it through their tedious day to day live That there are people who have no idea that bad things happen and there are people who do know and they both get drunk the same Really Now what do you want to say about that If you want to get drunk then say that Metcalf had surgery with his girlfriend to switch their gender sensors She ran off and stuck him with the senses of a woman He can still get it up, if he chose to He doesn t except to sorta fall in love like that in the woman in my doorway kind of way every time a ballsy woman wears lipstick So why the sex sensors thing Why was this even in the book It was mentioned several times and nothing else happened with it Was that to sound sci fi enough for someone who wanted to read sci fi There was nothing about him that said I think differently from before woman senses Nothing said woman Nothing said anything but I wanted to write a cool drug sniffing hard boiled detective stand in standing for nothing type So why There is a kangroo, Joey Kangaroo Jack called It wants his sucker punching Joey back , working for some big bad guy because there has to be a bad guy There has to be another guy in Metcalf s place so says this book Okay, why Lethem wanted to throw in shit like talking kangaroos and people on drugs like Acceptol and Forgettol Why do people want to take drugs to forget what they are currently living so as to not live at all C mon ask questions if you want to be a private investigator so bad and mourn the day people didn t roll over The book rolled over Ugh Just admit it then Where did their karma cards come from Who decided what depleted your karma and what was a good deed Why is the hero as feckless as the world he doesn t really try not to sink in He takes their drugs too, for example Elevator music, answering machine music, dentist lobby music, on the way to collect an award music, commercial jingle music Time to stop and think drown out the mind music The music says wah wah we are all so numb and the album art is of a cool disaffected person The video bimbo is a statuesque blonde with bright red lipstick The kangaroo can borrow his outfit from Rick Springfield s dog.Also, the mystery sucked I already know who killed the sheep It was these guys I could have my mind erasedAnd still not know exactly what I don t already know Modest MouseP.s It doesn t make sense that a kangaroo would work for a p.i They are hardly inconspicuous The bigotry towards evolved animals was thrown in there Metcalf hates them without ever wondering why It is hinted they have marginallyrights Why were they made Why are they working for anyone Why throw them in there for muscle Anything Do you even care, Lethem Why did the guy on drugs to make him not care care about his fading place in life a job no one cared about WHY P.s.s The book called It said P.s., I forgot to care My name is Conrad Metcalf, and I m a private inquisitor You knew that You read it somewhere and it gave you hope Let me tell you now that it ll cost you seven hundred dollars a day to keep that hope alive What you ll get for that money won t be a new best friend I m as much of a pain in the ass to the people who pay me as I am to the guys I go up against Most people walk out of my office knowing things about themselves they didn t want to know unless they leave after my first little spe My name is Conrad Metcalf, and I m a private inquisitor You knew that You read it somewhere and it gave you hope Let me tell you now that it ll cost you seven hundred dollars a day to keep that hope alive What you ll get for that money won t be a new best friend I m as much of a pain in the ass to the people who pay me as I am to the guys I go up against Most people walk out of my office knowing things about themselves they didn t want to know unless they leave after my first little speech See the door Take away the dystopian, science fiction elements and I could swear I m reading a Lew Archer mystery from the classic period This is strong evidence, in my book, that the noir style, with all its mannerisms and over used typical cast of characters and plots, remains relevant and fresh today As long as there are still mean streets of corruption, organized crime and violence in our cities, there remains the need for the iconoclast, lonely gumshoe who would not rest until his personal idea of justice is fulfilled.I learned a long time ago that my job consists of uncovering the secrets people keep from themselves as much orthan the ones they keep from each other Jonatham Lethem managed to a a lotthan simply paying homage to the genre He has written a powerful, stylish, darkly humorous existentialist novel that happens to take the form of a murder investigation in a futuristic Oakland where everybody is a drug addict, animals with woken intelligence live side by side with humans, babyheads toddlers have their intellects artificially accelerated, and the government has total control through musical news, wordless newspapers and karma police The printed word had been dwindling in the news media, but it hadn t disappeared completely until a year ago, when it was outlawed The first person narrative, through the voice of private inquisitor Metcalf, is sharp and engaging, with a very good balance between wisecracks, social commentary and the occasional metafictional foray Art mirrors culture muses Metcalf at one point of his investigation, and it strikes me as a valid argument both for the classic noir that served as inspiration for the novel and for an easier understanding of millennial forms of entertainment It is not so difficult after all to extrapolate current trends and arrive at newspapers filled entirely with images without text, or at a government monopoly on drug distribution that is used to control a restive population and transform it into zombiesYou consider yourself an outsider, a seeker of truth amidst lies, yet you ve bought into the biggest lie that can be told You snort the lie through your nose and let it run in your bloodstream Metcalf himself is an addict, who cannot function without his special mix of nose dust How is he any better than the underworld kingpin he is stalking or that dubious doctor who keeps an awoken sheep in the basement My skeptical faculties overcompensate and, in effect, the ingredient backfires I become paranoid and suspicious More than usual, I mean I like this concept, that the first step in being a gumshoe, a crusader for truth and justice, is to be skeptical Like Dr House used to say Everybody Lies For Metcalf, the paranoia seems well justified, since everybody and their uncle are out to get himI considered the possibility of a physical confrontation with a roomful of babyheads all clinging to my legs and climbing on my back, and I decided I wanted to avoid it The image of piranhas kept coming up I have danced around the actual plot details in my review One reason is that I am sure in a few months these events will get mashed out with the hundreds of other crime novels I have read in the past and I will continue to read The other reason is that it is a pretty typical, Ross MacDonald type of plot, where you start with an ordinary murder in a motel room and you slowly uncover conspiracies that go up to the highest levels of society You have the dame in distress, the hot babe the detective will fall for, the cops who rough you up, the fat crime boss, the doctor with a secret agenda and so on OK, maybe you don t usually have a kangaroo henchman or a sheep as a clandestine mistress, or a detective whose nervous system has been switched with that of a former girlfriend But in the end, the piquant details are another reason to keep searching for new books in the genreIt was a dame, a dish, a bird I never know what to call them when I want to be other than rude Because I m always rude But she made me want to be other, made be want to be someone I wasn t This was Mr Lethem debut novel I am quite willing to continue exploring his fictional worlds The style and voice and plot are pure Raymond Chandler, set in a weird future of talking kangaroos and mind altering drugs It s a wild ride that s largely successful, though not as ambitious as other futuristic genre mash ups for example, China Mieville s The City and The City , in part because it hews pretty closely to a standard Chandler esque plot and in part because the futuristic elements aren t quite as developed Still, there are moments of sheer brilliance here. A first rate hard boiled detective story that throws in some intriguing elements of speculative fiction to create something special.Starting out, it could just be another hard boiled detective story about a down and out PI on a murder case involving some sketchy characters and a crime syndicate Yet, Lethem slowly peels back the layers on a world that grows everbizarre Some of this could be considered window dressing genetically evolved sentient animals and babyheads inanimate obje A first rate hard boiled detective story that throws in some intriguing elements of speculative fiction to create something special.Starting out, it could just be another hard boiled detective story about a down and out PI on a murder case involving some sketchy characters and a crime syndicate Yet, Lethem slowly peels back the layers on a world that grows everbizarre Some of this could be considered window dressing genetically evolved sentient animals and babyheads inanimate objects, like guns, that play music for unknown reasons and don t ultimately do much to shape the story beyond providing some novelty Yet others, such as a Karma point system, where people are sent to the freezer for legal or behavioral infractions if their balance drops too low or bizarre, mind altering legal drugs like Forgettol and Avoidol that everyone is addicted to, help drive the plot in some uniquely compelling ways Lethem stays laser focused on the story at hand, never revealing much of the larger context of this clearly dystopian world, referring only to an inquisition indirectly, as well as societal taboos against asking and answering questions of any sort.As a fan of both hard boiled detective and speculative fiction, this was right up my alley For the truly sick individuals that pay attention to my meanderings on Goodreads, you ll note that I frequently take notes as I m reading Except when I don t And I didn t, much, while reading this Why Because 1 I was too engrossed in the story, 2 things happened so fast that I didn t have time to process them, and 3 I have no good way of actually conveying what I thought as I read So, why , you ask are you even writing this review, Forrest because Duty You see, back in 2017, I vo For the truly sick individuals that pay attention to my meanderings on Goodreads, you ll note that I frequently take notes as I m reading Except when I don t And I didn t, much, while reading this Why Because 1 I was too engrossed in the story, 2 things happened so fast that I didn t have time to process them, and 3 I have no good way of actually conveying what I thought as I read So, why , you ask are you even writing this review, Forrest because Duty You see, back in 2017, I vowed to becomeintentional in my reading, to really only list on my to be read list books that I intended to buy and actually read Because I am a slow reader, that meant cutting that list dramatically, which I have done But part of being intentional in reading, for me, is reviewing each book, as difficult as it might be, and as craptacular as the review might be And so, here we are.I have to thank two of my favorite Goodreaders, Glenn Russell and Dan Schwent, for pointing me towards this genre blurring novel I am a big fan of genre blurring, and I love it when it s done right, and really, really hate it when it s not Here, Lethem has a winner When I first read the blurb on the book Marries Chandler s style and Philip K Dick s vision, I was intrigued, but wary I ve heard that kind of praise before, and.In this case, the claim is accurate Take one part Dashiell Hammett, one part Raymond Chandler, one part Philip K Dick minus the mysticism , play some Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in the background, do a line of coke, and you are in the zone The characters are fantastic, especially the narrator, who is as snarky as they get The setting is caught somewhere between the 1940s and the future honestly, I had something between the movie version of The Big Sleep and Blade Runner in my head, though the futuristic accouterments were not nearly as pervasive as in Ridley Scott s film The thing that sets gun, with occasional music apart besides it s intriguing title, which, you will note, is uncapitalized, at least on the cover is the way that it interweaves seemingly disparate elements in such a way that they feel perfectly natural An uplifted not Lethem s term I m stealing it from the scifi hive mind kangaroo as thug, babies who have been genetically accelerated into adulthood except their heads, hence the term Babyheads , and the titular gun, with occasional music, all seem to be of a piece okay, pun intended i couldn t help myself, so shoot me Nothing seems shoehorned in, which is often a shortcoming in such genre blurring novels No, this book is as smooth as butter Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems there s a rabbit in his waiting room and a trigger happy kangaroo on his tail Near future Oakland is a brave new world where evolved animals are members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage Metcalf has been shadowing Celeste, the wife of an affluent doctor Perhaps he s falling a little in love with her at the same time When the doctor turns up dead, our amiable investigator finds himself caught in a crossfire between the boys from the Inquisitor s Office and gangsters who operate out of the back room of a bar called the Fickle Muse Mixing elements of sci fi, noir, and mystery, this clever first novel from the author of Motherless Brooklyn is a wry, funny, and satiric look at all that the future may hold Video reviewManages to offer some of the most unforgettable world building I ve ever read without pausing the action forthan a few words at a time Offers an absurd dystopian future that s just absurd enough to be convincing Fuses hardboiled with scifi as seamlessly as to be unfair Rocks Video reviewManages to offer some of the most unforgettable world building I ve ever read without pausing the action forthan a few words at a time Offers an absurd dystopian future that s just absurd enough to be convincing Fuses hardboiled with scifi as seamlessly as to be unfair Rocks In Gun, With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem gives us science fiction s worthy successor to Raymond Chandler Though this is the easy take home message from nearly every quoted newspaper columnist, book jacket blurb, and miscellaneous reviewer they also all happen to be right Even a cursory familiarity with Chandler s pulp noir will ring through with startling clarity to readers of this novel The cadence of the narrative, the hard boiled dialogue, the archetypal characters Lethem s Con In Gun, With Occasional Music, Jonathan Lethem gives us science fiction s worthy successor to Raymond Chandler Though this is the easy take home message from nearly every quoted newspaper columnist, book jacket blurb, and miscellaneous reviewer they also all happen to be right Even a cursory familiarity with Chandler s pulp noir will ring through with startling clarity to readers of this novel The cadence of the narrative, the hard boiled dialogue, the archetypal characters Lethem s Conrad Metcalf is a well executed Philip Marlowe cover song with just a little bit of record scratching thrown into the background for texture.On the other hand, those same columnist quotes, blurbs, and reviewers all seem to liken Lethem to Philip K Dick Personally not seeing it It s a bit of a stretch, some optimistic name dropping to match up Lethem s mystery noir heritage with some similarly classic science fiction antecedent The ubiquitous drug use Sure, okay that s a bit Dickian A M bius fold of reality unraveling around the narrator in some palpable and thoroughly eldritch fashion Not so much More than PKD, the scenes in this novel played out in my imagination as fearfully symmetrical to Cronenberg s take on BurroughsNaked Lunchsubstitute Jim Henson esque evolved animals for Mugwumps but otherwise that s it, right down to Peter Weller as Conrad Metcalf.Or maybe Punk s review has got it down It s Blade Runner meets Who Framed Roger Rabbit Where was I Oh rightA part of me desires to do a chapter by chapter deconstruction of the text, to get all scholarly about it and run the blockade of Chandler s lineage here I want to look for the hidden significance of the doctors as urologists, to get semiotic on names like Catherine Teleprompter and Danny Phoneblum But instead I ll just give a positive nod It s a fun, noirish scifi romp with all the right moves and delivers slightly better than expectations UPDATE Upon second reading holy crap I didn t realize just how bleak that ending was, the first time around Just the way that Metcalf s whole world collapses around despite his success and how he takes his exit See also Excellent His style is as cold as Hammett s, and the moral core as strong as Chandler s And any book that says both In Los Angeles it s illegal to know what you do for a living and Tell him next time he wants to talk to me, don t send a marsupial should be in everyone s library.This character develops, is one thing somewhat new he loses his early self consciousness about his metaphors, and eventually solidifies enough to end a chapter with the brilliant line It was time to stop fucking Excellent His style is as cold as Hammett s, and the moral core as strong as Chandler s And any book that says both In Los Angeles it s illegal to know what you do for a living and Tell him next time he wants to talk to me, don t send a marsupial should be in everyone s library.This character develops, is one thing somewhat new he loses his early self consciousness about his metaphors, and eventually solidifies enough to end a chapter with the brilliant line It was time to stop fucking around The love scene says The thing I wanted wasn t lost in the past at all, and it never had been It was lost in the future A self I should have been, but wasn t A thread I d let go of in myself, thinking I could live without it, not seeing what it meant In a mean, pulpy sort of way, it s wrenching It seems important that Metcalf s eventual solution is to surrender to the future, to allow himself to skip ahead to whatever future is next part of him is still lost in the future that could have been, but he embraces the actual future without sacrificing that sense of loss So that s the key, here, and that s a good thought you feel the loss of your possible selves keenly, but you throw yourself blindly, with relief, into the future that is Your pain goes with you So does what you ve done, because you refuse to forget It s okay that it s sort of trite originality and subtlety are not the detective s virtues

  • Paperback
  • 271 pages
  • Gun, With Occasional Music
  • Jonathan Lethem
  • English
  • 25 September 2017
  • 0156028972

About the Author: Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Allen Lethem born February 19, 1964 is an American novelist, essayist and short story writer.His first novel, Gun, with Occasional Music, a genre work that mixed elements of science fiction and detective fiction, was published in 1994 It was followed by threescience fiction novels In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award winning novel that achieved mainstream success In 2003, he published The Fortress of Solitude, which became a New York Times Best Seller In 2005, he received a MacArthur Fellowship