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Gun, With Occasional Music (1994)

by Jonathan Lethem

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,157565,661 (3.74)87
Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems--not the least of which are the rabbit in his waiting room and the trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. Near-future Oakland is an ominous place where evolved animals function as members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind-numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage. In this brave new world, Metcalf has been shadowing the wife of an affluent doctor, perhaps falling a little in love with her at the same time. But when the doctor turns up dead, our amiable investigator finds himself caught in the crossfire in a futuristic world that is both funny--and not so funny.… (more)
  1. 30
    The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (ahstrick)
  2. 10
    The City & The City by China Miéville (sturlington)
  3. 00
    The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Dystopian futures largely characterized by the ubiquity of mood-altering drugs.
  4. 00
    Glasshouse by Charles Stross (oldnick42)
    oldnick42: Creative sci-fi with memory-erasing elements.
  5. 00
    The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry (ahstrick)
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» See also 87 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
This is tasty futuristic/dystopian noir. It has several of the revolting aspects that make noir darker and seedier than "crime stories." There are things that the story hints at that makes astute readers want to pump the brakes. Such points are real risks that the author took, and I can appreciate that. (Example, what are these evolved animals and how corrupt are the physical interactions these future humans have with them? Taboos and immorality and...and. Are they still brutes if they talk and think and such? Maybe it's a good thing the author left some of this open ended and vague.)

The detective story: a private investigator who is a real louse anyway, gets a case that ends up terribly. Like a good noir story, nobody is saved. It's a bad day for everyone.

But the writing is somehow utterly engaging and the world-building with its strangeness is so curious.....

With more payoffs on a few of the elements, this is easily a five star read. Instead, some of the elements just seem too pointless. And this is certainly NOT a novel for *every* reader. It's a bit repulsive at points. But not gore...just cringe. Not crass. Just cringe. All noir (the streets flow with powder and gin). ( )
1 vote AQsReviews | Sep 6, 2021 |
This was a fun and interesting read. Lethem has a great way with language, and manages to set up a very strange, dystopian, and disturbingly plausible future. There's a Newsweek blurb on the cover that sums it up perfectly: "Marries Chandler's style and Phillip K. Dick's vision". I understand that this is not typical of Lethem's work, but on the basis of this, I've picked up a couple of this other novels, and I'm looking forward to getting to them. ( )
1 vote JohnNienart | Jul 11, 2021 |
I don't typically love genre fiction, but this one was so weird in how it messed with the genre that I found it really appealing. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
Very silly but very entertaining pastiche of Chandler. ( )
  Paul_S | Dec 23, 2020 |
The characters in this story mix their own special blends of drugs to give them just what they need to get through life. This book is its own special blend of sub-genres – mostly detective noir with a heavy dash of cyberpunk and a sprinkling of dystopia. I think it was missing some addictol though, because I never had trouble putting it down. I liked it more toward the beginning, but it started getting tedious around the middle. Toward the end things picked back up, but there were things that annoyed me.

I haven’t read tons of them, but I’m not usually a big fan of detective noir. This one has a lot of the inevitable tropes. Some of them were slightly different from the norm, but it felt like the usual anyway. The main character, Metcalf, is a down and out male detective. He has an addiction to drugs. Usually I expect an addiction to alcohol and/or tobacco, but drugs are the thing in this book and they’re available for free because they help keep society under control. Metcalf had the inevitable problematic history with a woman, although in this case that problem was a bit different and moderately amusing. And of course Metcalf was trying to solve a case that nobody wanted him to work on. Very familiar stuff, although the setting itself was a bit outside the norm and I kind of liked the answer to the original murder mystery.

Despite the tropes, I enjoyed it more often than not. Metcalf has a dry sense of humor that appealed to me and provoked a few chuckles, although he was also crude at times. The cyberpunkish dystopian world had a lot of familiar aspects to it also, but it was reasonably interesting and not so overdone as to get on my nerves. (Cyberpunk is another subgenre I don’t usually do well with.) Metcalf’s questioning of various people and the types of things that happened grew repetitive, so that was one issue. If I’m going to read a mystery, I also prefer to see things done more logically and methodically. This was one of those stories where the main character repeatedly goes into things unprepared and figures things out more through dumb luck and intuition than by finding and assembling tangible clues.

Also just a note that my Kindle edition had several OCR errors, mostly in the form of missing or stray punctuation, with just a couple words that appeared to be misprinted because they looked similar to the intended word. It wasn’t the worst I’d ever seen, but a little distracting at times. I bought it on sale from Amazon U.S. in late 2019. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Oct 31, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lethem, Jonathanprimary 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
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For Carmen Farina.
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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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Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems--not the least of which are the rabbit in his waiting room and the trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. Near-future Oakland is an ominous place where evolved animals function as members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind-numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage. In this brave new world, Metcalf has been shadowing the wife of an affluent doctor, perhaps falling a little in love with her at the same time. But when the doctor turns up dead, our amiable investigator finds himself caught in the crossfire in a futuristic world that is both funny--and not so funny.

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