Saturday, July 20, 2013
Book Review: Warren Ellis - Crooked Little Vein (2008)
After finishing the entire Transmetropolitan graphic novel series about a few years ago, I'll confess that I really couldn't find anything of the same magnitude in Warren Ellis's previous or recent work. But that's when I discovered a little novel in 2002 (just a couple years after Transmetropolitan fizzled out) called Crooked Little Vein. I had no earthly idea what the novel entailed, but being such a connoisseur of Ellis's work, I knew that it was certainly worth picking up. So I did, after finding myself hooked from the preview chapter provided on the book's Amazon page.
Crooked Little Vein is a lot like Transmetropolitan in the way that it deals with society - perverted, obscene and despicable in all facets. But unlike the futuristic setting of Transmetropolitan, Crooked Little Vein is a story that hinges more towards the modern era. It also takes place in America (the same setting as Transmetro) and could be seen as a supplement to the series, even though it is in no way connected. The prose is very much the same from Ellis, it very much seems that he was trying to get some unused Transmetro content out in the "vein" of another world, by means of a completely different artistic medium. Being Ellis's first stab in the literally world, I wasn't quite sure what to think. But I'll say it again... this book hooked me in and refused to let go.
The book is told from the point of a view of a private dick by the name of Michael McGill. But you'll mainly see him referred to as just "Mike" throughout the text. Basically, a limo pulls up at Mike's lonely office and a gentleman who identifies himself as the president's chief of staff walks in with a mission for Mike. He's got to retrieve an "alternative constitution" which was in all actuality; supposed to have been "the real thing" and could change the whole of American history had it ever been found. But there was just one problem. The trail was dead. Cold dead, as a matter of fact; fifty years a corpse and not even a handful of breadcrumbs to go on. But the government gave our unlikely hero (should we say hero?) half a million dollars to aid him in the hunt for this incredibly rare document.
Plenty of hijinks ensue, as well as several discourses on why Bukake is the new Anal Sex, how listening to the sounds of tires on the road is like Native American divination by hoofbeats (not to mention those smallpox blankets) and umm... well... There's no way to say this professionally. This book actually has a section dealing with Macroherpetophiles, which is for people who basically want to fuck Godzilla. According to Ellis's notes in the back of the book, this is based on true information. But the site in question no longer exists.
Then of course, there's Trix - the kind of rough-and-tumble tattooed vixen who amount to a Warren Ellis wetdream, of which there's no doubt. It would also not be a leap to say that there's almost as much of Ellis in Mike as there is of me in Will; which could surmise this as a sort of "author fantasy quest." Throughout the book are all sorts of incredibly graphic obscenities, like the homosexual bodybuilders who inject their testicles with saline, (a practice that still continues to this day and with many other body parts - sadly, the momentary "breast explosion" that I thought might occur from said injections are not as grand as they might have appeared (check out ModBlog (Google it or "Lady Scorpion" for more information on saline injections and other weirdness) and the accidental death cause by injecting industrial grade saline into one's buttocks (it's called sealant, you idiots) which has in all honesty, been done in real life by people who don't know the difference in salt water and industrial materials used for buildings. There's also some talk about the elusive conspiracy called The Pirates Of The Pacific (a factious group who were apparently students of the Skull And Bones society - look them up) and their Russian Roulette parties where they will gather trafficked children and have sex with them in the hopes that it will cure HIV (this is based on actual information, as Ellis states in his notes.) Of course there's also Zack and his porn empire - but in reality, he details how everything can be watched with just a simple little application applied to all technological devices - something that is and has already had the whistle blown on it (NSA LEAKS) even though this was based in a work of fiction.
Sadly, Ellis's grim and at times comedic look at human society in America through British eyes is very much vested in the realms of reality and leans far less to the whimsical worlds of imagination that accompany most fiction novels. Though it's certainly fiction, it packs a punch in one of the most realistic ways I've ever seen in the world of literature and it's definitely the same sort of work that I feel influenced some of my work in Will's Downfall. Ellis considers Hunter S. Thompson (a man who's books are ridiculously expensive right now) to be one of his biggest influences, and oddly enough - people consider my WIll's Downfall work to be very much in the same Hunter S. Thompson vein. The thing is, I never even knew it. Thompson had a hell of a time getting read, as writing material that is full of grit and grime is very difficult to market. You won't see it on Wal-Mart shelves and it won't be widely promoted on television, nor the internet. But times are changing as the bar lowers further into the ocean.
With Ellis's current novel Gun Machine, is poised to debut as a series on FOX; so things are definitely looking much prettier for Ellis's dim look on society than they ever would have for Thompson. But once again; I chalk that up as a sign of the times. One could also say that Thompson's work is being honored through Ellis in that most of it comes through his direct inspiration.
Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein is a novel for the most strong-stomached and sour-minded individuals out there; people who like their detective stories ungodly brash and delightfully witty. It's black humor and real world insanity is likely to make a good fit for anyone who is bored of the modern day vampires, witches, pseudo political religious rants and other schlock that fills the goddamned shelves these days. Literature isn't dead just yet, because this thing got published. A real page-turner, you'll be rubbernecking this car crash all of the way to the very end. It'll leave you full of questions and still wanting more.
Score: 10/10 A must read for those who can stomach it and recommended to fans of The Will's Downfall saga. My inspirations are always a must to my readers.
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