I really did not like Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis’ first novel, but I love his comics, so I decided to give his second novel a try. I’m happy to say he improved enormously this time around. My main complaint with Crooked Little Vein was that it had virtually no plot. It was just a series of bizarre fetishes he found on the Internet, strung together with a silly secret government treasure hunt. This novel actually had distinct characters, a story, conflict – you know, all those things that novels need.
Gun Machine is a hard-boiled detective novel set in New York City, and you really get a sense of the city while reading it. A pair of NYPD detectives answer a disturbance call in an apartment complex, and in doing so they uncover an unoccupied suite filled with guns. After some investigation, they find that the guns retrieved had all been used in previous murders, spanning over decades. I don’t want to go into the plot in too much detail, because part of the fun of a police procedural is discovering what’s happening alongside the characters, but it really drags you along.
I’ve turned around on his writing now. I’m really excited to see what comes next, which is a nice surprise considering I almost didn’t pick this up in the first place. His comics are always imaginative and hilarious, and it was a relief to see that transfer successfully to a novel. If you’re on the fence, as I was, this is worth giving a chance.