Of Godzilla, saline and other perversions

Crooked Little Vein'Crooked Little Vein' by Warren Ellis

Ellis, Warren

Harper Perennial

ISBN 978 0 06 125205 1

This book is just kind of beautiful.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s no classic of literature or anything, it’s not even really culty enough to be a cult classic.  But that’s almost part of the charm.  I mean, I only had an inkling that it might be good because of Ellis’ comic writing, and the fact that I read his blog and he had been banging on about his second novel, Gun Machine, for a while there.  Now, I know that being asked back to do another one is no guarantee of quality when it comes to writing… sometimes just the opposite.  But after reading this one, I can see why they asked him back.

It’s pretty compelling.  Okay, yes, I know, I have a weakness for the gross out, and there are bits in this book which are terminal gross out.  Weirdly, it’s been compared to the Chuck Palahniuk story Guts, but I can’t really see it.  I mean, Guts is almost medical-porn in its level of detail, and while there is a little of that in here, the whole motivation feels entirely different.  It’s almost like, Ellis is faking a world-weariness through the character of Michael McGill that is just a thin veneer over something romantically, comically unpleasant.

Okay, so the story is meant to be a… I don’t know, it kind of put me in mind of that daft movie National Treasure.  You know, with less Nicholas Cage and more people injecting various substances into themselves.  The plot is pretty similar in all the right ways, but while National Treasure is a common-or-garden adventure story, Crooked Little Vein is part detective story, part travelogue, part ringing indictment.  There are many shades of Spider Jerusalem in Michael McGill, which I like.  I can go a long way for a character like Spider, and I can only imagine that he’s a lot of fun to write.  Trix is a pretty good character, I’ve always liked the way that Warren Ellis writes his lady characters all convoluted and charmingly fucked up.  I dig her attitude of trying anything (boy, that girl really will try anything too) once, plus how she always seems to be dragging Mike around, getting him mostly into trouble.

This was another one that said it was like Burroughs, so I guess the universe is trying to tell me something.  I’m trying to make it all the way through Metro 2033 at the moment, so that won’t be happening for a while yet.  But getting back to the whole reviews on the back, does anyone else find them the least helpful thing to see if you’ll actually like the book?  I mean, often the blurb is bad enough – I still puzzle over my copy of American Gods with the phrase that Wednesday reckons he’s the King of America, he only says that once, for Pete’s sake – but some of these reviews!  Oh my stars, and there are two pages on the inside flap with guff that people have said about it!  As much as I like Joss Whedon, I ain’t gonna read a book just ’cause he reckons that the book is “…Dante on paint fumes.”  Well, okay, I might, because that’s a rad phrase, but still.  Come on.  How much convincing by celebrities and critics should we need?  Heh, I kind of like the rather dour one from the fun-police at Library Journal though – “It’s a high-energy joyride through a collection of lecherous situations best left undescribed here and likely to appeal primarily to adolescent males”.  Don’t hold back there!

Well, whatever, I’m in good company then, I guess.  ‘Cause while it didn’t totally blow my mind, it did make me laugh, and I liked it well enough to get all the way through.  So, while it is a gross-out kind of read, it’s not so heavy that you can’t get through it in a couple of days, and isn’t that what you want occasionally?  If we were comparing it to food, I’d say it’s like fried food; you know it ain’t good for you, and you wouldn’t want to eat it all the time, but when it’s done well, it’s the tastiest thing you could wish for.

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Posted on March 18, 2012, in Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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