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Gun Machine

Gun Machine back

Warren Ellis

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Page 45 Review by Stephen

“He glided across the street to the fenced perimeter of Central Park and slipped between its bones like a knife.”

Behold the hunter, a predator subsisting on what little is left of Manhattan’s nature, a man more in tune with its past. The present is virtually toxic to him. He is a creature of ceremony, of meticulous preparation and exact execution, successfully stalking both the streets and his targets undetected for years. He is a man with a mission, and it has just been rudely interrupted.

Detective John Tallow has been jaded and weary but he’s waking up now with a start. His partner’s had his head blown off by some random naked guy with a shotgun. Another blast strayed and sprayed into an apartment wall through which John can see guns: hundreds and hundreds of guns arranged in a precise pattern of rows and spirals and… there appear to be gaps yet to fill. They’ve all been used. They have all done their duty, the purpose for which they have been precisely selected. And now they are Tallow’s problem. He should be on sick-leave on compassionate grounds, but for some reason his Lieutenant has kept him on the case. He’s being set up to fail, and he’s now on the hunter’s radar.

John Tallow is in deep, deep shit.

If you love your language, you’re in for a treat. What struck me very early on was that Ellis has changed voices for this second prose novel, not altogether but enough to set this apart from CROOKED LITTLE VEIN and indeed almost all of his comics to date bar PLANETARY. The one sequence that did put me in mind of CROOKED LITTLE VEIN was when Tallow snaps on the police radio to shut everyone up, and it surely does.

“All at once, horror tumbled out of it.”

Crime after almost inconceivably grotesque crime floods from its speakers in a relentless slurry of casual sadism and cruelty. It’s like a condensation of FELL: FERAL CITY. But beyond that the lurid sex-talk and angry bombast which amuses me no end has been set aside for now, replaced by two alternating narratives, one following Tallow, the other the hunter.

It’s as much about observation as anything else, for here we’re presented with two preternaturally perceptive individuals able to read the world and the people around them, albeit in radically different ways. I doubt my tells would get past either of them.

“Emily seemed to be sliding into a state of… he wouldn’t say emotionlessness, but certainly distance and apathy. Her voice came from somewhere deep inside her, somewhere dusty that was a long drive away from being present in the world. The same remote point that he has sometimes, in rare self-aware moments, heard his own voice coming from over the past few years.”

The dialogue is as deft as you’d expect, for which Ellis supplies two new assistants, albeit slightly less filthy that TRANSMETROPOLITAN‘s, except when Tallow’s just bought them coffee:

“Oh my God,” Bat prayed. “I love you. I would let you have sex on me and everything. But I am very tired and would prefer not to move.”
Scarly killed a cup lid with feral fingers and chugged a third of the container. Her eyes flexed weirdly in their sockets. “Oh, that’s the stuff,” she said. “That really is the stuff.”
Bat was weakly pawing at the lid of the cup nearest him. Tallow reached over and took it off him, abstractedly wondering if this was what fatherhood felt like.

The history and geography of Manhattan lie at the book’s heart, and possibly its future too, for there’s a very neat use of security cameras. Above all else, however, I can promise you a killer the likes of which you’ve never encountered before, and I hope you never will. There’s probably one out there waiting, though.

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