Review: Gun, with Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

It took me a half dozen tries in as many years to finish Jonathan Lethem’s Gun, with Occasional Music. Hard-boiled detective fiction has never been my thing; it often feels ponderous and overdone. However, Lethem injects humor and sci-fi to create something new, even fun. The action happens through Conrad Metcalf’s eyes and is filtered through drug use and self-assured cynicism. Hired by Dr. Stanhunt to tail his wife, Celeste Stanhunt, Metcalf is a private investigator with a complicated relationship to the Inquisitor’s Office. After Dr. Stanhunt is found dead, the suspected murderer hires Metcalf to clear his name. There’s an obvious cover-up in play which draws Metcalf into increasingly shady deals. The twists and endless questions are common to the genre, but the writing style and compelling setting make it hard to put down. read more

Review: High-Rise by J.G. Ballard

I’m posting out of order. I have in-progress reviews, but I’m coming off a book high and I’d rather blog about J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise. It’s a trippy, bizarre, downhill slide of a book with spurts of absurdist humor. I’m partial to weird books that are well-written and Ballard spins a tight tale about a high-rise populated with affluent professionals whose class struggle grows increasingly animalistic. The narrative rotates to follow three main characters: Richard Wilder, an occupant of the 2nd floor and member of the high-rise’s “lower” class; Dr. Robert Laing, a 25th floor occupant; and Anthony Royal, the architect on the top (40th) floor. As the building degrades, sharp lines of blacked-out floors divide the classes and Wilder leads raids to the upper floors. Laing and Royal begin their own expeditions and carve out niches for their own desires. read more