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Gun, with occasional music by Jonathan…
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Gun, with occasional music (1994)

by Jonathan Lethem

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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» See also 61 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
This is a fun read that reminds me of Philip K. Dick. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
I was really looking forward to reading this one, until after 30 pages or so I ran into what has to be the most sexist comment I've read in the last few years (and this is not the opinion of one of the characters, which would be fine, the way it's written, it's the authors opinion).

Basically, the protagonist and a previous girlfriend decided to get an operation done which leaves you with your genitals intact but you have the sensitivity of the other sex. That is, men get to experience female orgasm and women experience male orgasm. This could be mildly interesting, but as it turns out the author must think that all females are anorgasmic, since the girlfriend runs away before the operation can be reversed (apparently now that she's got a penis she's not going to give it up), and the detective gives sex up altogether, because what would be the point? I just have to wonder about Mr Lethem's sex life, if he really thinks that women don't or can't enjoy sex.

Moreover, this comment put me in such a bad mood that I decided to stop reading the book, and I'm not likely to start reading it again any time soon, which is pity as it had potential.
  kinsey_m | Nov 9, 2013 |
This book was on my shelf for a very long time... I think I thought it was a different kind of book than it actually was. It is billed as a noir-detective type novel, but I would have to say that it is equally an alternative future/sci-fi type novel.

It does have the Chandler-esque tone to it: making it on the dark side, and the action short and succinct. It is not particularly violent or graphic, but has an over-arching depression about it. (i.e. you won't find a feel-good sensation at the end).

There is significant drug use - in fact, this is one of the components that set the novel out as alternative future-ish... drug use has been legalized, and, even more disturbingly, made customizable for the end users. In fact, it changes society completely at the end - and It adds a layer of bleakness to the story, while still remaining believable.

I have read elsewhere that the novel was a commentary on the state of individual detachment from/in the world, and I suppose that could be an accurate description. Except that I didn't read it for social insights or moral issues; I read it for simple enjoyment. Fortunately it delivered. Sure, you can read all sorts of stuff into it, but you don't have to, and I think the book stands well as a futuristic noir. ( )
  crazybatcow | Oct 29, 2013 |
If Philip K Dick and William Burroughs had a love child, it would grow up to be this novel. I'm not much on who-dunnits, but tue science fiction is so powerful, here, that I still loved it. The gender issues that the protagonist faces are extremely interesting. HIGHLY recommended. ( )
  JWarren42 | Oct 10, 2013 |
My reaction to reading this novel in 1995. Spoilers may follow.

The strange title makes sense at the end of the novel when mechanical devices, including guns, often have musical accompaniments. This is another mystery written in direct stylistic imitation of Raymond Chandler. I’ve never read Chandler himself though I’ve come close by watching Double Indemnity which he scripted. I suspect the plot of the book – a lone cynical detective trying to unmask the corruption of the world around him – mirrors Chandler’s private eye heroes.

The corrupt world of this book, sometime in the middle or early 21st century, is a sf dystopia of baroque touches. Evolutionary therapy has created intelligent animals. (We meet a talking sheep -- who gets murdered, a kitten, an ape, and a vicious, gun-toting kangaroo who the narrator detective kills at the novel’s conclusion.) Cryonic suspension is a punishment. “Babyheads” (all children now have accelerated growth) form their own babbling, beatnik type subculture. Neural surgery permits lovers to exchange sensory input from their genitals. (The hero’s old girlfriend has left him with female type wiring in his genitals while she has his penis wiring.). Memories can be edited. Most significant and disturbing of all, lots of drugs: addictol, Regrettol, Acceptol, Forgettol with effects you’d expect given their names. Technology – of the hardware sort – is relegated to an anti-gravity pen the narrator carries, and he wittingly makes the observation that significant new technology often announces itself in tacky advertising products.

Despite all these baroque touches and talking animals, the plot and style (Chandleresque prose is always fun to read because it emphasizes grim, dark humor and dry wit) make it feel like a ‘40s mystery. If I understood Letham’s point, this novel, behind its sf machinery and its Chandleresque plot of a man “neither tarnished nor afraid” prowling “mean streets” (phrases from Chandler), is about a dystopia of alienation. The hero, Conrad Metcalf, is not a private eye but a private Inquisitor; he formerly worked with the official Inquisitors who in this world are the police. Letham depicts a culture of people alienated from each other and reality. It is considered rude for all but Inquisitors to ask questions, so a major fuel of human interaction is missing. Metcalf, because he has the genital nerve wiring of a female, feels alienated from his own sexuality. The murdered Maynard Stanhunt (whose death opens the novel) is alienated from his own past due to heavy use of Forgettol. Indeed, this alienation proves fatal since, through a series of convoluted events, his employee the gun-toting kangaroo, mistakes him for someone else. The populace itself is somewhat divorced from reality since newspapers (in a manner reminiscent of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451) only carry pictures, radio news is usually delivered in music and seldom words. After Metcalf is railroaded into a six year cold sleep sentence, he emerges into an even more grim, bizarre world where “time-release Forgettol” is the drug of choice for the population, where people query memory boxes to see what they do and don’t remember. In such a world, Metcalf can’t bring himself to kill Phoneblum, the object of his intended vengeance, since, to all practical purposes, the old Phoneblum is dead already.

Metcalf’s role as an incorruptible figure is further accented when, even though he has a heavy drug habit emphasized from beginning to the very last words of the novel, he refuses to satisfy it with the new personality and memory destroying drugs. He is determined to not only symbolize justice in the world but to be one of the few uncorrupted repositories of past memory. Eventually, he goes back into cold sleep rather than becoming a typical denizen of the world and hopes the world will be better when he wakes up. The only real flaw in this novel is the love triangle between Phoneblum, Maynard Stanhunt, and Celeste Stanlemt is termed as stable before Maynard’s murder but that is never explained nor is Phoneblum’s blackmail hold over Drs. Stanhunt and Testafer. ( )
  RandyStafford | May 17, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Lethemprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Isaacs, GaryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keynäs, VilleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koelsch, MichaelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There was nothing to it. The Super Chief was on time, as it almost always is, and the subject was as easy to spot as a kangaroo in a dinner jacket. Raymond Chandler
Dedication
For Carmen Farina.
First words
It was there when I woke up, I swear. The feeling.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156028972, Paperback)

Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems-there's a rabbit in his waiting room and a trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. Near-future Oakland is a brave new world where evolved animals are members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind-numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage.
Metcalf has been shadowing Celeste, the wife of an affluent doctor. Perhaps he's falling a little in love with her at the same time. When the doctor turns up dead, our amiable investigator finds himself caught in a crossfire between the boys from the Inquisitor's Office and gangsters who operate out of the back room of a bar called the Fickle Muse.
Mixing elements of sci-fi, noir, and mystery, this clever first novel from the author of Motherless Brooklyn is a wry, funny, and satiric look at all that the future may hold.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:33 -0400)

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PI Conrad Metcalf investigates the death of a doctor in a futuristic California where the government distributes mind-numbing drugs and menial work is done by animals. Jail is suspended animation in a freezer and curiosity is banned.

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