To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
2.0 out of 5 starsUnsatisfying blend of noir and SciFi
Reviewed in the United States on March 5, 2020
A reviewer called this "Chandler's style and Philip K. Dick's vision". I thought it had too little of each. In an alternate near-future where animals are given human intelligence (how?) and news reports are wordless mood music (why?), the detective hero is hired to sleuth an unfaithful marriage. Clues lead to a illegal medical clinic, and on to a local gang lord. But the detective asks too many questions of too many people, and is thrown into jail (for what crime?). A clever twist at the end does resolve the original mystery, but it comes after too many pointless pages for this reader.
Jonathan Lethem never ceases to amaze me. "Gun, with Occasional Music" almost reads like a graphic novel... in fact, it is screaming to be made into one. Kangaroo hitmen, talking sheep, genetic manipulations, babyheads... Like Dik's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", Lethem's romp is a kind of sci-fi meets detective noir. I read it in two sittings. Now I'm going to read it again, like I do all of Lethem's books. You have to. Not because you missed anything significant. It's those little touches that might have gone by too smoothly that need to be savored again, that I seek to recapture.
4.0 out of 5 starsGood book and audiobook...but not outstanding
Reviewed in the United States on June 22, 2011
This audiobook is well read by Nick Sullivan. His voice is resonant and pleasant to listen to; however, I think the pace is a bit too slow. I found myself waiting and urging that the narrator say the next word - though everything is very well pronounced. He gives an appropriate enough characterization of detective Metcalf as well as the other characters. I especially like the kangaroo. However, it is not done with enough urgency. Worst are the scenes of suspense of the novel. The reading of the action moments is only mildly exciting. However, for listening in the car and other places, this audiobook is a great supplement to the novel.
Lethem's novel itself is fascinating. His prose already in this first novel is beyond accomplished - perfect flow and beautiful language. Especially for people who know the Bay Area, many interesting areas are described - from Oakland to El Cerrito, rather than the standard San Francisco. However, this first novel feels a bit too close to Philip K Dick's world (Lethem's idol). Feels like a belated PKD novel rather than something truly new for the 1990s. Also, there is a bit too much noir and not enough science fiction (at least for sci-fi fans); some fascinating ideas like the advancement of animals, freezing of bodies in prison, new uses of drugs, but I wished to know more about the new world. Then again, this first novel is worlds better than PKD's first novel.
The best way to read the book: a reversal of PKD's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep." Instead of mechanical animals, we have evolved animals. Instead of chickenheads, we have babyheads. The drug use and regulation is here taken to new dimensions of regulation and insanity. And instead of a bounty hunter, Deckard, we have... well, Metcalf, whose nickname is "Dickface," perhaps an ironic reference to PKD.
5.0 out of 5 starsbeautifully done crime novel with a subtle-ish dose of Where Are We All Headed? I read it in 24 hours
Reviewed in the United States on November 21, 2009
I'm currently reading Nick Hornby's
The Polysyllabic Spree
, and he mentioned reading Lethem's
The Fortress of Solitude
, which reminded how much several people I know loved Lethem's
, which in turn reminded me of a little science fiction (ish) novel that Lethem wrote back in 1994 which I had wanted to read. That's the genealogy. I picked up the book last week, and I basically read it in the last 24 hours (while traveling from DC to Atlanta to Rio to Brasilia). It had me completely captivated.
A hard-boiled detective addicted to dope and flowery metaphors goes up against the institutional cops to solve a murder. And there's a kangaroo with a gun. And a house that's a hologram. And people getting frozen (think Han Solo at the end of
The Empire Strikes Back
). But before you stop, the beauty of Lethem's novel is that it doesn't feel like science fiction. It feels like a captivating crime noir novel. The reason is that Lethem reels you in at the first pages with the story and the character, and only bit by bit, over time, do you realize that the world is different from our own (right now). (One problem with much science fiction and fantasy is that it requires such a massive investment to start the book: the planet of what? the what-reorganizing matter machine? huh?) And the science fiction elements all feel relevant: the walking, talking animals are the result of artificial evolution processes, and everyone is taking to dope to forget their lives (think a gritty
Brave New World
). The crime story itself has the requisite zillion twists and turns, and Lethem leads us right up to an impressively surprising finale.
Note: Lots of strong language, a fair amount of violent, and some sexual content.
I really wanted to like this book because the cover and name are really great, I know, lame reason. There were some parts that the author could've skipped as they didn't add to the story, but then some really interesting developments, like the human-animals and drugs everyone does, that he doesn't really expand on, even though it would've helped with the story and interest factor. Also the characters are pretty basic except for the protagonist and at some points it can get a bit confusing of what exactly is happening and why. Overall it wasn't bad but nothing great.
Reviewed in the United States on November 27, 2018
This is undoubtedly one of the worst written crime novels I have ever attempted to read. Hard to believe that the author of Motherless Brooklyn wrote this--poorly written, lousy plot and riddled with clichés and just plain awful writing. I wasted my good money on this--don't waste yours.
3.0 out of 5 stars"An evolved sheep was killed. I found the body..."
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 24, 2012
This was Lethem's debut book and one has to admire his ambition at the very least. It's set in a future American city. The scientific gene advances have enabled animals to become almost human, with voices and human intelligences. But they are, if you like, the equivalent of the new black race, suspected and looked down upon. There is a new prison system too, you don't now go to jail to be a further drain upon society, you are cryogenically frozen for the term of your sentence. You are stripped of the karmic points on your life-card. On release you receive a fair number to allow you to start building up the karma again. Sounds almost humane doesn't it?
Conrad Metcalfe is a private inquisitor (the police are all inquisitors now) - one of the very few remaining private eyes. The dialogue is fast though only infrequently lives up to the Raymond Chandler model. When a man called Orton Angwine asks for help - a man with zero karma, Conrad knows there is little he can do. "When the Inquisitor's Office set your card at zero, it meant you couldn't get caught slamming the door to a public rest room without sinking into a negative karmic level." And Orton Angwine has been accused of murder.
I found it fun at one level, with the inventive use of notions such as children treated at birth to gain an adult's learning abilities in their first three years(Babyheads). But this is one of the ideas that are only peripherally delivered. Solving the case of Orton Angwine takes precedence. The trouble is it takes forever. Conrad drives here, he drives there, he has inconclusive conversations with half a dozen people and it just goes nowhere. I liked the ideas but the energy ran out of the action around halfway through, even given Dulcie the sheep. I much prefer Lethem's later work, especially the wonderful
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 23, 2016
It is noir, but not; sci-fi (futuristic, but not space opera...) - sort of; literary - yes, but not 'high-brow' or experimental; comedic - often - and maybe because it very cleverly melds all these genres it hasn't really 'hit' one and remains under many people's radar - including mine, until now. That said, this is one of the few books I've read recently which offers something new, surprising, clever, well-crafted, and worth the time you invest. Funny, gripping, even touching in places, not one to be missed. If only there were more books like this.
My favourite of Lethem! This book is so out there, but in the best possible way. Lethem's imagination is fantastic, and I love the way he writes. I read this for the first time many years ago, I've had to purchase it again at least 3 times as I'd lend it out and never get it back. I'll still push Lethem on anyone who will listen, but my books will stay in my home from now on!