Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis (2007, William Morrow & Company)
For those not familiar with the man, Warren Ellis is the creator of reknown graphic novel series Transmetropolitan, Planetary, and The Authority, among others. While he has published a couple of non-fiction works in addition to his sizable writing credits in the graphic novel world, Crooked Little Vein is his first fiction novel— and what a debut it is!
Imagine, if you will, that some shadowy government organizarion has created a child spliced from the DNA of William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk. Now imagine that this child has been raised on nothing but Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut, Japanese monster movies, and internet porn. Continue to imagine that shortly after this child has come to late adulthood in a post 9-11 climate, he has been taken to a remote one-room shack containing a table, a chair, and a typewriter, illuminated only by a bare 60-Watt lightbulb. He is promptly injected with a solution of Red Bull cut with the ashes of Hunter S. Thompson and told to write a novel capturing the current American zeitgeist. That imaginary novel would only begin to approach the sheer strangeness of Crooked Little Vein.
Down-and-out private eye Mike McGill has always had strange and horrible luck. With a little more than three dollars in his bank account, Mike is given a job he can't refuse: retrieve a magic book written by the Founding Fathers— a backup Constitution and mystical reset switch for "American" values. As he pursues the elusive text, Mike's bizarre luck never lets him have a moment's peace. From movie-night with a group of Godzilla bukakke fetishists, to his new polyamorous tattooed goth-punk assistant/ love interest, to strangely illuminating conversations with serial killers on airplanes, Crooked Little Vein will hurtle you through the deviant underbelly of America and confront you with practices so offensive that you never even though to want to be disgusted by them.
Though Ellis makes Palahniuk look like Barney, his severely twisted prose is more than just pure shock, it is undercut by a feverishly strong intellect. Crooked Little Vein poses societal questions on par with such great names as Orwell and Huxley, while truly leaving the reader to draw their own meaning from the story.
Readers should be warned, though, that this is not a story for everyone. If you are easily offended or "grossed-out," you would probably do best to move on. If, however, you have a twisted sense of humor and a proclivity for the bizarre, you don't want to miss out on what will hopefully be the first in a long line of novels from Ellis.
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars