Daveski's Reviews > Gun, With Occasional Music

Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
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's review
Feb 16, 2011

it was amazing

Lots of people much smarter than I am have already described this book as a combination of Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick, but there's really no more accurate way of describing this novel. The main character is Philip Marlowe in every way (except for the name, of course... and the drug addiction I guess). The style and structure are very consciously in the style of Chandler, but everything else is reminiscent of PKD mostly because Lethem himself is generally reminiscent of him, not because he is directly borrowing anything (that I'm aware of, at least).

The plot is a classic hard-boiled detective story, which takes place in a near future dystopia where everyone is given free drugs and the police have a monopoly on asking questions. Everyone is assigned "karma" points, which can be granted or taken away by the state, and when you get down to zero, well, you don't want to drop to zero. Also, there are "evolved" animals that talk and wear clothing. And infants called "babyheads" with the intelligence of adults who have developed heavy drinking problems... It's very odd, but the focus of novel is the story, and all the sci-fi stuff is there to serve the plot, not the other way around.

If a hard-boiled detective novel in a dystopian setting peaks your interest, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. It's maybe not Lethem's best novel, but I still enjoyed every page of it. Highly recommended.

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