• Inherent Vice

  • By: Thomas Pynchon
  • Narrated by: Ron McLarty
  • Length: 14 hrs and 31 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (1,167 ratings)

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Inherent Vice

By: Thomas Pynchon
Narrated by: Ron McLarty
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Publisher's Summary

Part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon - Private eye Doc Sportello surfaces, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era.

In this lively yarn, Thomas Pynchon, working in an unaccustomed genre that is at once exciting and accessible, provides a classic illustration of the principle that if you can remember the '60s, you weren't there.

It's been a while since Doc Sportello has seen his ex-girlfriend. Suddenly she shows up with a story about a plot to kidnap a billionaire land developer whom she just happens to be in love with. It's the tail end of the psychedelic '60s in LA, and Doc knows that "love" is another of those words going around at the moment, like "trip" or "groovy", except that this one usually leads to trouble. Undeniably one of the most influential writers at work today, Pynchon has penned another unforgettable book.

©2009 Thomas Pynchon (P)2009 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"What he does, and brilliantly, is open windows onto a universe where we're all in custody, but we're none of us sure who put on the cuffs...entertainment of a high order.” (TIME)

"An enjoyable book by a writer whose work can be daunting.” (John Powers, Fresh Air on NPR)

“With whip-smart, psychedelic-bright language, Pynchon manages to convey the Sixties - except the Sixties were never really like this. This is Pynchon's world, and it's brilliant. The resolution is as crisp as Doc is laid-back. Highly recommended.” (The Library Journal

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What listeners say about Inherent Vice

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Fun Pynchon, don't be afraid

This is a rather un-Pynchon-like Pynchon, but very good. The "plot" echoes Crying of Lot 49 a little and there are allusions to other novels, Vineland, Against the Day, Gravity's Rainbow, but they are unobtrusive nods, and the story is very linear and enjoyable. Think Big Lebowski crossed with a noir-ish mystery, a little Chinatown, a little Big Sleep..etc. There are some funny moments along the way and the plot gets convoluted like the old noirs, but the stoned surfer type detective and the dialogue is really what's of interest. There are plenty of allusions and puns and word plays, but again not for the most part obtrusive. There are many Pynchonesque themes ( paranoia enhanced perhaps by the drugs; entropy; and communication; and mechanization/computerization; government conspiracy) but these won't get in the way for non-Pynchon-ers. I found myself getting nostalgic with all the late 60's pop-culture references to movies and television shows and music of the time. Gravity's Rainbow is another kettle of fish entirely. Lot 49 is also very accessible and even V., and i'm looking forward to Against the Day to see which way it leans, Gravity or Vice.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

If you enjoyed The Crying of Lot 49...

If you enjoyed The Crying of Lot 49, then Inherent Vice is right up your alley. It follows the same kind of surreal yet linear structure of Pynchon's more accessible works, and, like The Crying of Lot 49, you will probably find that several passes are required to digest the novel. The best description I can give of the nature of Inherent Vice is that it is the kind of book you could imagine Hunter S. Thompson writing if he had any gift for fiction. It is an excellent piece of literature.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • 10-10-12

It's what you can't avoid...

This is probably the single best audiobook I’ve gotten from Audible. The narraration is exceptional, I very much wish this reader would also record Pynchon’s earlier novel Vineland. McLarty’s performance of the songs is all one could ask for, the many characters are distinctly rendered, and he simply breathes the rhythm of the prose. The story itself is Pynchon’s most accessible, relatively short and with an ideal balance of straightforward plotting offset with the characteristic comic digressions that one expects from the author. If you haven’t tried him before, this is a good place to start.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Terrific romp through the 60's

This is one of the of the best audiobooks I've ever heard. It..like...totally paints a picture of a time and subculture that's now long gone. There is a plot, and it's pretty good once it gets going. The real genius is in the depiction of roaringly funny chararacters and situations from a drug hazed version of the 60's. The narrator completely nails all of the the characters voices. Just hearing him earnestly singing the author's absolutely excreble, hilarious song lyrics, which somehow work their way into the story is worth the credit alone. The book is a great satirical send up of the 60's, complete with hallucinations, bad driving, hippies, the FBI, biker gangs, and sinister corporations all mashed togther. Don't let what you hear about the author's reputation as an inaccessible "Great American Writer" throw you off, this is great fun.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Big Lebowski-esque with a great narrator

It's so rare to find a narrator who sings. I loved Ron McLarty's narration on this one. The story itself was complex and engaging without being too dense. It took me deeper than the usual detective story, in a very satisfying way. It didn't inspire me to download more Pynchon right away, but even though it didn't go on my priority wish list I'll definitely listen to more Pynchon and McLarty in the future.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

An Everyman Pynchon

Whether you loved it, hated it or never even knew about it before, Pynchon artfully captures SoCal in the late sixties as it begins to fade into media pastiches and the fogged memories of those who were there at the time. As always Ron McLarty does a superb job of narration. Not my favorite Pynchon but a great read.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Something compelling but over all disappointing

Any additional comments?

Maybe I’m lazy. I admit I have a problem being still. My attention wanders. That’s one of the great things about Audible. I love story, but damn it if I can’t sit still for long. So it takes forever for me to read a book (in the physical form). Maybe two weeks for 300 pages. I don’t think I ever would have gotten through this book without having it read by Audible. It’s a frustrating novel. But it’s not bad. It’s rich. But not really satisfying.

The biggest problem is you know it’s going to take some effort and you kind of realize at some point that it’s not going to be rewarded except in maybe the most esoteric ways -- and that’s assuming you have the point of reference for a lot of the cultural references to mean anything to you at all. In other words, you get what you put into this thing. The thing is that I don’t think a lot of people would have much to put into it. Which I don’t mean as an insult. Just that the story is very specific in its time and place and I feel like I was born maybe ten years too late for this book to have really landed. I felt left out more than anything. As a detective story, it’s sort of like Altman’s Long Goodbye. Post modern and self aware and weird for its own sake in many instances. I’m sure others might disagree. It’s not like Big Lebowski at all. People will say that and you might be allured by that, but they’re wrong. (I didn’t really ever like Big Lebowski, haha.) This book has more going for it than that movie, but. BUT.

I would say this sucker is for the initiated only. I would have rather read several other things. If you experienced California in the sixties and seventies, this might be your thing. I mean....I like California in those periods. The films, the culture and the music. That’s partly what drew me -- the myth of that era. Still it just didn’t land for me. I’m curious how the Paul Thomas Anderson film develops the story. IF it does. I admit it was PTA who drew me to reading this novel more than Pynchon. This is my first experience with him. Frankly....it might be my last.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Surf Noir, man.

Ok, ok, I get the negative reviews. There's lots of stuff about the '60s. There's lots of talk about drugs and talking by people on drugs. If it's going to turn you off, skip this one. Comparisons with The Big Lebowski are justified, but IV’s got a lot more going on than just a spaced out protagonist.

Doc, the main character, is a Private Investigator who works a lot of free cases but manages to get by. But he's more than a cliché PI who’s a sucker for a pair of legs and a pouty lip. Pynchon neither subscribes to nor ignores cliché. He plays with it. He uses it, from blonde jokes to stoner metaphysics, as postmodern documentation of a society that would have such clichés.

It’s America and the end of an era. The Civil Rights movement has become a caricature of itself, as increasing government power and surveillance methods begin to attack Civil Rights in new ways. Is this the paranoid delusion of washed out surfer hippies, or something more? Will this ARPAnet someday grow into something all-pervasive, all-knowing?

This is no Cheech and Chong meets Bogart. It’s more Mark Twain meets Umberto Eco.

Lost worlds, secret organizations, zombies, crooked cops, biker gangs, and (of course) dentists are packaged in with the sex, drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll.

It’s a fantastic, wonderful ride.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

3.92 stars........

I may have come to the conclusion that Pynchon just isn't that enjoyable for me. While many people love this author and this novel, I found it to be a bit underwhelming. Some characters who appear have little to do with the story, and the ones who are supposed to be main adversaries of Doc, the protagonist, just don't seem all that important to the story. Sure, there are some enjoyable sections, but on the whole it wasn't all that engaging for some reason. I kept going to the end, but I was ready to move on by the time I got there. The narrator was fine.

Overall rating: 3.92 stars

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A serious comic mystery. Wait for the movie?

This book is hard to classify. You might call it a comic mystery, but I didn't find it all that funny. It does accurately reflect a certain time (late 1960's) and place (Southern California beach towns) and the business and brutal side of the drug culture. Various characters, including the PI, "Doc" Sportello, reminded me of an amalgam of "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers," comic book characters from the early 1970's. At one point, Doc recites their favorite line: "Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope." They had no ambition other than to smoke dope and try psychedelic drugs (other than heroin), a little like Doc. He appears to be smart but views the world through a continual marijuana haze. It gets tiresome after a while. There are too many characters and side detours, at least for me, who only listens in the car while commuting or shopping. His dialog with the "honest cop," Bigfoot Bjornsen, contrasts their different life styles and philosophies, but eventually, it too seems to grow stale. One does sense a mutual respect.

The narrator does a pretty good job handling the myriad challenges of the book, but sometimes, I couldn't distinguish a character by his/her voice. Altogether, a mixed bag.

I gather a film of the same name will be released in 2014, starring Joaquin Phoenix as "Doc." It'll no doubt be simplified and easier to understand. It'll be interesting to see whether I will like it better than the audiobook.

2 people found this helpful