Jason's Reviews > Gun, With Occasional Music

Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
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Dec 17, 12

bookshelves: read-2010
Read in December, 2010

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 state-approved drugs to keep them docile. Only the police (called inquisitors) are ever allowed to ask questions and you are kept in check through your Karma, which the police may give or take away at will.

While the action that drives this plot forward is a murder (like most detective stories), the tension is society (again, like most detective stories) and the protagonist operates in that margin in which is he a part of society and is protecting it, but is also apart from society at the same time. Like Huxley and Orwell, this is the tension, that loathing of the normal people and their vices mixed with that desire to be them, that complicity that accompanies the desire to buck. It gets under your skin and while it's there with its social message and overt government big-brotherness it slips in questions of race and sexuality and prejudice, individuality and that question of what we should let slide and what we should stand up for. It ends not triumphantly, but somehow majestically, blending the endings of 1984 and Brave New World with the expectations of the crime genre.

This is a fantastic book in every facet of the word and a mashup that works excellently.
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