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Gun, with Occasional Music

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  6,929 ratings  ·  690 reviews
Conrad Metcalf has problems. He has a monkey on his back, a rabbit in his waiting room, and a trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. (Maybe evolution therapy is not such a good idea.). He's been shadowing Celeste, the wife of an affluent Oakland urologist. Maybe falling in love with her a little at the same time. When the doctor turns up dead, Metcalf finds himself caught in ...more
Paperback, 262 pages
Published January 15th 1995 by Tor Books (first published March 1994)
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1984 by George OrwellThe Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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Dan Schwent
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
Sep 10, 2011 Mariel rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: there were only a few flipper babies!
Recommended to Mariel by: I don't acceptol this book please give me some forgettol
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? Déjà 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 ...more
Nov 03, 2012 Rob rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: curious what Neal Stephenson sounds like covering Raymond Chandler?
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 ...more
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
Sci-fi noir detective story. It's Blade Runner meets Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and exactly as goofy and dark as that sounds.

Conrad Metcalf is our narrator, a Private Inquisitor in a world where direct questions are considered rude and question marks are flashy punctuation. The story's filled with products of evolution therapy: talking kittens and mobster kangaroos, plus the mysterious babyheads -- toddlers with advanced intelligence that hang out in babyhead bars and babble their babyhead talk. I
Dec 27, 2008 Maureen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like Raymond Chandler
Shelves: novels
somebody lent me this book because they know i love my noir, and the book pays off in that regard but the notion that this is science fiction or a successor to pkd is confusing to me -- the world lethem introduces us to has drugs coming out the wazoo, and there are evolved animals yes, but really? that all seems window dressing, a spin on what is primarily a detective story. lots of what i would consider the speculative elements don't actually seem to go anywhere -- why is text outlawed? what's ...more
"Gun, with Occasional Music" is the best kind of science fiction- you barely know it's science fiction at all. Every aspect of the world Lethem has created is in service of the plot, even the bits that seem overly goofy or derivative at first, not the other way around.

The story is a slab of thick noir starring the every-P.I. Metcaff. Letham casts the heavy as an evolved kangaroo, and his world also features 3-foot tall evolved babies. While this could come off as "Disney Does Noir", there's ver
Sci fi, maybe? Definitely noir. This is one of the most unusual and interesting books I've read . . . maybe ever. The only thing that comes close are the bizarro titles I've read this year, but this has the extra bonus of being three times the length of most of those books.

Conrad Metcalf, PI (Private Inquisitor), lives in a world where conversation is frowned upon, and asking questions is permitted only by professional Inquisitors. Everyone functions by using drugs (Forgettol, Acceptol, etc), an
I see now what all the fuss is about. This is a fantastic book. The writing style blew me away. I really enjoyed it and found the humour particularly brilliant. The dystopian world Jonathan Lethem builds is presented so casually and is actually one of the most terrifying I've ever read of. Sure, many aspects of this world have been in other books, but not quite like this. And there's just something about how this is written that makes you laugh while a chill runs down your spine. It's really rat ...more
Oct 27, 2009 Richard rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by:
This is a fun and quick read. But in the days after I finished it, I found that my impression took a bit of a dip as I pondered it, and it lost its four-star rating in the process.

But first, a curiosity: this is the second off-beat mystery novel set in Oakland that I've read recently. The other one, Swing: A Mystery by Rupert Holmes, isn't SciFi at all, but also involves a musical theme which is even more central to the plot.

As the blurb and other reviews have remarked, Gun, with Occasional Mu
I wanted to like this book, I really did. A nice little mixture of the standard down-on-his-luck detective story and the dystopian science fiction future setting, with some humor mixed in - what's not to like, right? Sadly, it turns out there isn't much I can say for it. Lethem gives us this cobbled-together society with evolved animals, "evolved" babies, this wonderful mixture of government-issue chemicals that pretty much everyone imbibes with regularity, and a karma-tracking system - but why? ...more
Like Morgan's Takeshi Kovacs, this is detective story set in scifi setting with some dystopian flavor (all descendent of Asimov's Baley-Olivaw)--that makes it part of the nerd-boiled sub-genre.

I suppose nerd-boiled fiction isn't really for me. It's got some cool ideas (articulate animals & infants, lotsa creative narcotics, Hindu ideas for law enforcement), but generally it appears that it solves dystopian fiction's universal problem of slick setting/stupid story by superimposing the standar
Nate D
Jonathan Lethem, an obsessive reader of the sloppy but exhilaratingly inventive Phillip K. Dick, began his writing career with a period of somewhat less sloppy but still exhilaratingly inventive science fiction of his own. Not to say that Lethem's sci-fi is better than Dick's but that at his best, his prose is a little more even, his concepts a little more tightly executed. Gun, a wildly entertaining noir set in a future where developmental biology is in boom and drugs aren't just legalized but ...more
Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
I read this as part of my challenge to Read Around the World as documented in my blog:

This time I went to Oakland, California (where I was born!)

This, I think, is not the Oakland of my birth. It's an Oakland where you need a license to ask other people questions. It's an Oakland where drugs are not only legal, but de rigeur. It's an Oakland were "evolution therapy" has made not only intelligent animals, but also intelligent toddlers, or "babyheads". (Very cree
HOLY WOW! what a great book! Maybe not 5 stars but most definitely a solid 4 and a half. Don't have the time to expand on that right now but if you like weird, original noir like nothing else you've ever read, then pick this one up! So happy i already have another of his books, Amnesia Moon, which i'll be enjoying very soon!
Yes, there is a quote that starts this book off by Raymond Chandler, and yes, it is written in that hard-boiled detective style, and yes it is set in the future and deals with individuality and choice, which brings up all of the Dick references, but this is a book that more than anything is channeling the lovechild of Huxley and Orwell.

Set in a future that is not entirely dissimilar to the fifties, it is populated with evolved animals and sarcastic, whiskey drinking babies and everyone does sta
Maggie K
So, because of being a detective-noir fan, I have been wanting to read this for a while. A dystopian future world detective story with sentient animals and karma points.... sounded right up my alley, literature-wise.

The gritty detective story was there...a complicated cheating spouse turning to murder scenario with enough complication to hit the right notes.

However, I found myself questioning the world-building a lot. Was there a reason for baby-head humans, kangaroo gangsters and gorilla detect
Allan MacDonell
Cleverness can be its own punishment, or a reward unto itself, and one reason why Jonathan Lethem is a highly regarded fiction writer is that his dazzling constructs of wit and whimsy are penance-free reading. Gun, With Occasional Music was Lethem’s debut novel, and the second I’ve read, after Motherless Brooklyn. Both books engendered a curious kind of envy. While wishing Lethem’s success could be mine, I both happily enjoyed his achievements and was glad that he’d shared them. The type of read ...more
This first novel is very good noir science fiction detective mystery novel with some time travel and non human characters, from the then unknown Lethem, who has gone on to become a big novelist.

Try it if you like original science fiction coupled with a mystery and with a detective as the main character.
5 stars for me

I sat down with my old trustee Sony reader, ready to break dawn with the start of a new book. A new weird detective noir novel, think Dick Tracy set in an alt future. You have guns and bad guys, some music too, but you also have drugs galore and a cast that consists of a talking sheep, a crotchedy old detective ape, some evolved kitties and babies and a strong armed, short tempered kangaroo named Joey Castle. It is a murder mystery that is told in the first person by our protagonis
GWOM is wildly different and creative. This is a scifi/noir/detective story, but those categorizations only begin to describe this book that, as a Newsweek critic wrote, “marries Chandler’s style and Philip K. Dick’s vision.” And indeed, the opening lines of the second chapter of Raymond Chandler’s final book, Playback, served as the inspiration for this one, as elucidated by the epigraph: "There was nothing to it. The Super Chief was on time, as it almost always is, and the subject was as easy ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes

In the future as invented by Jonathan Lethem, San Francisco is full of musical tones installed in appliances and objects which sound when they are touched. People even wake up to musical news on the radio, with soothing harps in the background, and tubas supplying mood music for stories about justice done. Murders gets violins. All of ordinary life is beginning to be lived to background mood music, as encouraged by government and private businesses. (Admit it, as you live your life today, don't
I got this because it was on sale, I like Lethem and noir. It was all right, though way over on the ridiculous side. I mean, there was a kangaroo with a gun in many of the book's pivotal scenes. I mean, it takes place in the future, and a future including menacing, talking kangaroos is definitely something we should all strive for, but still - the book is not that great. Outside of the end. The end was pretty cool.
More like 4.3 stars
Allie Burke
I would never have picked up this book/heard of it/read it if it wasn't for some online hipster book club I was in at the time, but I'm really glad I did because I think it should be a classic of our time. It is extremely ambitious in that it combines elements of the science fiction, thriller/suspense, and literary genres. It's written with literary style and is unique, and basically 99% of the time, style + diversity = Alliebook. It was really strange to the point that it shocked me out of its ...more
I'm not really into hardboiled reads, but I love love the imagery within of some harsh dude, probably holding a cigarette and contemplating a bottle of scotch stashed in a drawer, feet laid up on a desk next to a phone that has known almost no use.

Lethem, artist of genrebending, delivers a funny read that is also smooth down the cranial gullet. Like that good scotch stashed in the drawer. What little noir I've read harks from Ross H. Spencer whom I believe to be the funniest noir detective writ
Colin McKay Miller
Jonathan Lethem’s first novel, Gun, With Occasional Music, may not be the Magnum opus that gave him fame and credibility, but it sure is entertaining.

Conrad Metcalf is a P.I. in a land where only certain people are allowed to ask questions, so when a man comes to him claiming to be framed for murder, he lets his curiosity get the best of him and starts unraveling a cover-up better left untouched. Blending a hard-boiled detective story with science fiction, Lethem’s futuristic California runs on
Having greatly enjoyed Motherless Brooklyn I read this Lethem book, his first, with a little concern. Usually first books by authors are not their best, especially when they are only dug up later after the author has been noticed for another work. However I can happily say that Gun with Occasional Music is well worth the time of anyone who loves Noir fiction.

In short, the book is a mash up of dystopian and crime fiction. It follows a classic Raymond Chandler type detective character as he makes
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
Nella Los Angeles del futuro la polizia è stata sostituita dall’inquisizione. Le teorie evolutive hanno creato animali che camminano e parlano come umani ed annullato del tutto l’infanzia, i bambini non esistono più, al loro posto ci sono le testoline, mostri a metà tra un piccolo genio ed un animale evoluto. I Testimoni di Freud vanno porta a porta a leggere brani tratti da Il disagio della Civiltà.
Le tessere Karma sono l’unico documento valido che si può esibire, una fedina penale sporca può c
This is really great. I'm wavering between 4 and 5 stars here. It didn't really compel me right at the outset, and I didn't shout praise out loud reading it, but once it hooked me, I sympathized totally with our hero and was fully interested in how his tale turned out. I'd like to see it average out with a 4.7 or 4.8 rating overall.

I love that this is a gritty noir detective story with a wicked sense of humor, and the various multiple science fiction aspects are so fundamental to the story's wor
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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 three more science fiction novels. In 1999, Lethem published Motherless Brooklyn, a National Book Critics Circle Award-winning novel t
More about Jonathan Lethem...
Motherless Brooklyn The Fortress of Solitude Chronic City As She Climbed across the Table You Don't Love Me Yet

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“Some people have things written all over their faces; the big guy had a couple of words misspelled in crayon on his.” 16 likes
“Apologies aren't something you want to get in the habit of practicing in the mirror” 11 likes
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