BOOK: Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
Author: Warren Ellis
Publisher: William Morrow
List Price: $21.95
Review: I’ve read a lot of fiction that tries to convey the ethos of the American underground. Oddly enough, it takes a British writer with a penchant for the grotesque truths average people tend to ignore to get it right. Known best as a prolific writer of comics and graphic novels like the dystopian mindfuck morality play, , Ellis is brand new to the novelist trade. All hesitancy regarding Ellis’ ability to jump from the world of comics to unillustrated prose should be abolished by page two. You won’t see his name on Oprah’s book club shortlist any time soon (though I’d love to see that interview), but there is a beating heart buried beneath the layers of drug addicts, deviant sex acts and gluttonous conspiracy that features prominently in this book. Of course, the layers are the main course… And admit it… You’re hungry.
In under 300 pages, Crooked Little Vein manages to unravel into a hard-boiled crime novel, paranoid conspiracy story, twisted morality tale, deviant romantic sex comedy and a good old American road novel all in one explosive package.
Crooked Little Vein tells the story of Mike McGill, a below average private detective who’s only talent in life is to attract the undesirable. When he’s hired by the ultimately undesirable, opiate-addicted chief of staff of the United States to recover the lost secret second US constitution, Mike’s talent grabs him by the crotch and leads him on a twisted journey of discovery. The secret second constitution turns out to be a document containing the moral code of America. Unfortunately, president Nixon traded the document for the favors of a Chinese woman in the 1950s and it has been missing ever since… Oh yes, and it is bound in alien skin… Of course. Its loss triggered the moral decline of the nation and caused the perverse world that Mike lives in to exist. Accompanied by Trix, a sex addicted punk who plays Virgil to the Mike’s Dante, he sets off on a journey through the underbelly of American perversion complete with Godzilla sex cults, serial killers and a group of extremely well endowed saline addicts. On his search, Mike discovers a country blinded to its own perversions by the light of an even larger menace.
Ellis’ prose vibrates from the page with thoughtful tones and an Orwellian questioning of morality. His exploration of deviance and perversion highlights the kinds of acts that only affect the perpetrators, yet offend the general populace. As an added bonus, this novel of conspiracy, secrets and adventure seems to erect a large middle finger aimed directly at bestselling novels like the Da Vinci code. For all of the flaws inherent in each of Ellis’ characters (and there are many), the two protagonists glisten with an honest and complicated humanity that pulls no punches. Trix is an assertive and fully fleshed supporting female character, which is a breath of fresh air to the suspense/science fiction/crime genre, and Mike walks on a crutch of self pity and insecurity expected from a self described “shit-magnet” like himself.
Crooked Little Vein requires a healthy dose of disbelief suspension and a sense of humor, yet the details are almost too disturbing to be made up. In the end, the reader is left with a hell of a yarn that exposes every dark alley and boarded up building that not only makes the illusion of a squeaky clean society so alluring, but is also a symptom of such illusions. This is genre fiction at its finest… Because it means something.
Crooked Little Vein isn’t a beach read for the easily offended, but it sure would be fun to watch some of them read it. Ellis aims his pen at the gut and pulls the trigger. Fortunately, he also aims for the head.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
Buy a copy of Crooked Little Vein for yourself, you pervert! ()
September 17th, 2007 at 8:23 am
We’ve gotten this book in at the library, and the title and cover have caught my eye more than once as it makes its way through processing. I may now have to take a closer look. Thanks for the review.