Shivesh's Reviews > The Automatic Detective

The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
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's review
Jun 03, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fictional
Recommended for: fans of noir, detectives, robots, mutants, telepathics, and aliens
Read in June, 2008

What a well-written tale this was! Kept me turning pages.

This is the story of Mack Megaton, a sentient robot who was designed for mindless killing and destruction but decides on a much more peaceful way of life after developing "Freewill". So the novel opens with his occupation as a cabdriver. Like any sentient being, he wants to know where he came from, who is is and what he is meant to do: in essence he is the soul in the machine, seeking a purpose, like any human does.

Along the way, Mack navigates his way through Empire City, which is Martinez's amalgamation of dozens of sci-fi tropes and noir conventions: like mutants, private detectives, secret aliens, a powerful mob boss, a sexy brilliant blonde, all in a dirty, hazy, grimy city. All in all, this is such a cool setting for a sci-fi-noir where murderous robot enemies lurk around every shadowed corner and your best friend is a talking gorilla with a banana complex.

Martinez has a way with words and plows through the plot, which is well planned. You have to ignore some of the convenient setups and twists you may see coming - this is the only aspect of the writing that cost this book the fifth star. The shadows of the conspiracy along with our increasing affection for a stand-up bot like Mack really pulls you through the story, waiting to see whats next. The characters are well written and above all, funny. I keep forgetting how good books have memorable characters that always have a humourous side to them even amidst whatever insanity and carnage may be going in. The descriptions of the various mutants will crack you up.

The real star of this book is the city itself and the evocations of classic detective tales in the imagery. If you are a fan of old school classics like Double Indemnity, Maltese Falcon, or Chandler books, then the Automatic Detective would be great for you. It gets even better if you are also a fan of science fiction.

This is a great weekend read, and hopefully Martinez will follow-up with the further adventures of this giant robot detective.
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