Killing is My Business is very much in the same vein as the first book: Raymond Electromatic is one of the world’s last robots, originally designed as a private investigator, and co-opted by his partner Ada to become a hitman. He has a little limitation: he can only remember the past 24 hours, along with the background information that’s hard-coded and gives him his skills.
The feel is very Chandler-esque, and the story slips by quickly. The one frustrating thing for some people might be the fact that some things are obvious to the reader before they’re obvious to the narrator, due to the gaps in his memory. Personally, I thought that was well-handled, but if all you care about is getting to the answer then you might feel like shrieking a bit.
I’ve never read the third book, and I’m looking forward to it now; the ending of this book does some really nice setup for the truth to come out.
If you like Raymond Chandler’s work and you like SF/F, then this is the fusion you’re looking for! It was a reread for me, and I remembered liking it very much, but not the details of the plot. Adam Christopher manages to pastiche Chandler’s style pretty well: he doesn’t manage to coin as many phrases, and there’s nothing to beat ‘shop-worn Galahad’ and other pithy descriptions in the way that Chandler excelled at… but nonetheless it captures the style and pace of a Chandler story.
Mind you, this isn’t a Philip Marlowe retelling, or something like that. It’s basically “what if Chandler wrote science fiction?” — meaning the main character is a robot. Raymond Electromatic was created as a detective, but after the intervention and tweaks by Ada, who runs the agency, he’s a hitman. Those detection skills come in handy, though, when someone actually shows up at the office with a bag full of gold bars and a pretty face, asking him to kill someone. Ada and Ray don’t normally get jobs like that… but the gold is pretty hard to resist.
What unfolds is a detective story that unfolds in a pretty classic way. There’s a good helping of pulp in this, and that makes it a joyful romp — as long as you aren’t expecting it to be too serious. It’s meant to be fun, and for me it works.
Welp, haven’t written any of my backlog of reviews yet, but I’m still here, and I just handed in my assignment — meaning I’ve got an exam left, on 1st June, and then I’ll be free for a while. Maybe that means either now or once the exam’s done, I’ll have a bit of time to catch up on blogging.
Whatever happens, the reading never totally stops, though.
What are you currently reading?
Non-fiction: Still reading Judith Flanders’ The Invention of Murder, and now also reading Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, by Lisa Randall. I’ve heard good things about it, but I’m distracted by the title and wondering where the dinosaurs come in. Right now I’m in the middle of my umpteenieth explanation of the Big Bang, none of which ever make the details stick in my head.
Fiction: I’ve picked up Plain Bad Heroines, by emily m. danforth. I had not realised she was also the author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which I’ve always meant to try, but it sounds like this is very different in a lot of ways. I’m very curious to know to what extent there’s a supernatural element here… (don’t spoil me.)
What have you recently finished reading?
I feel like I have the memory of a goldfish, and could not honestly tell you right now what — ooh, that’s a nice bridge, I’ve never seen that before.
Okay, family jokes about goldfish/three-second memories aside, I finished up Snowball in a Blizzard by Steve Hatch, which had some very good insights into both how uncertain medicine actually is (there are few certainties, just probabilities and sometimes mere possibilities, even in established, commonly-used medicine) and how to handle that.
(Ooh, that’s a nice bridge, I’ve never seen that before!)
What will you be reading next?
I don’t really know. I’m kind of tempted toward a reread; I stopped reading the Kate Daniels series for a bit too long and lost my place again, so I think I might start that series again — why not? It’s fun. Then I’m also tempted to reread Made to Kill, by Adam Christopher, since I don’t think I ever did read the third book in that series.
Received to review via Netgalley; publication date 25th July 2017
I’ve enjoyed the other books and stories in this series a lot, and this is no exception. Take a Raymond Chandler-esque world, and apply one robot trained as a PI who has been somewhat repurposed as an assassin. Add the complication that he runs on limited tapes of memory — 24 hours at a time, no more storage than that. Add his AI handler, Ada, who very clearly has her own agenda — one which doesn’t always align with what their creators envisioned for them.
And, in this book, add the mafia.
I started it when I couldn’t sleep, and finished it an hour and a half later, without stopping once. Adam Christopher writes crisply, precisely; there’s no dead patches where you feel like you can put the book down, because if you did, well; something interesting might happen while you aren’t looking. I love the way Christopher uses Ray’s limitations to create parts of the mystery. This isn’t just a book with a detective/assassin who happens to be a robot; the fact that Ray’s a robot is vital to the whole thing.
Raymond Chandler’s probably rolling in his grave at the comparison, given he had no great opinion of sci-fi, but I’m not going to worry too much about giving him an unquiet rest.
I’ve gone about things a bit backwards, because I only read Brisk Money after already having read Made to Kill (and Standard Hollywood Depravity, too). So the twist in this tale was one I already knew. It’s still a fun short story; good set up for the later stories, and a good pastiche of Chandler’s general style — if not quite his flair at coining a phrase. It doesn’t take itself too seriously: honestly, all through it you can feel that the author is having fun. It’s Chandler-esque sci-fi, where Chandler called sci-fi fiction crap, and Christopher takes obvious joy in using the noir setting and bending it to take account of a robot detective.
I can’t promise it’ll blow your mind, but if a noir detective robot story appeals, then I can pretty much guarantee you’re going to have fun. It’s well-structured, too, which is also a delight to me in a short story.
Received to review via Netgalley, publication date 7th March 2017
Just like Made to Kill and Brisk Money, this is an entertaining story — imagine Chandler’s noir detectives, that kind of world, but add in one robot detective-become-assassin and his profit-orientated handler (actually a computer). It’s full of references and hat-tips to Chandler’s era, and though it doesn’t have Chandler’s flair with words (few people do), it’s well written and goes down easy. It’s also reasonably clear of sexism, racism, and Chandler’s other such vices.
This story in particular involves Raymond getting tangled up in the antics of various criminal cartels, and all that sort of thing implies. Bullets and assumptions fly, garnering a possibility of some grudges being held against Raymond and Ada, his handler — and we end the story with Ada and Raymond in a pretty good position. All ready for the next novel, since this is marked as 1.5 in the series on Goodreads?
In any case, this is readable whether or not you’ve read Made to Kill and the short story Brisk Money, but it is worth reading those for extra background and a better understanding of Raymond, his capabilities, and his limitations. The ARC version I read bundled in Brisk Money, so you could comfortable skip to that and read it first before going back to read Standard Hollywood Depravity.
Meanwhile, I never seem to have reviewed Brisk Money itself, and the release of this novella seems like a prime opportunity to do so — so watch out for that review coming sometime soon as well.
Made to Kill, Adam Christopher Received to review via Netgalley
You might know from my reviews of another Angry Robot alumnus, Chris Holm, that I kind of love the hardboiled pulp mystery fiction by the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. This is basically exactly that… except you add a robot and his equally electronic handler, Ada; the robot has a limited 24-hour memory because his memory’s on tapes; and the electronic handler has a prime directive of “profit” and nothing to keep her on the straight and narrow.
There’s an interesting story in the background, too: Ray discovering what he does during what are essentially blackouts; the whole background with Ada and Ray’s creator; the manipulations of Ray’s memory by Ada; Ray’s discovery that he’s being used as a murder weapon… Wisely, I think, this fascinating stuff is kept as background. It keeps you wondering what exactly Ada’s up to, it means you know about Ray’s limited memory and how he can be manipulated, but it focuses on an immediate mystery and leaves all that background to keep you wondering and coming up with your own red herrings.
Adam Christopher doesn’t quite have the style and originality of Chandler (there’s no phrases like “shop-worn Galahad” to delight the senses), but the writing is slick and functional in the best way. I read the whole thing in just over an hour, without stopping, without ever catching up on a snag that made me want to stop. He uses the robot nature of his protagonist in great ways to add detail, uses the limitations of the character to convey expressions and emotions. The robot technology is also kept at just the right level: sure, Ray can take pictures using his eyes, but they’re stored on film and he only has four rolls of film at a time. Ada runs on tapes. The technology is clunky, old-fashioned.
The plot itself is classic and I’m not gonna spoil it by giving you any clues. There’s some staples of pulp fiction here, though, and it’s good for a knowing smile, makes you want to wear a trenchcoat and a natty hat.
I’m doing really well and not buying books at the moment! But that doesn’t stop me going to the library (dun dun dunnn) or picking up comics. Though honestly, I picked these issues up a couple of weeks ago and forgot to include them then, so I thought I’d drop them into this post.
I haven’t actually read anything by Kate Elliott yet, so this seems like a good place to start! As for H is for Hawk, I keep getting curious about it, but not curious enough to buy it… and then lo and behold, I get it on Netgalley. I’m quite interested to get round to reading it ASAP.
Rachel Aaron and Adam Christopher have actually been on my TBR for ages, but that’s in ebook form, and sometimes I’m not in the mood for that. So I thought maybe getting from the library would kickstart me. As for the others, they come recommended by various people, and Emily of New Moon by my love of Anne of Green Gables, though I gather Emily’s a bit more saccharine than Anne.
I think a friend read Ladies of the Grand Tour recently, and The Galápagos has an obvious draw for me…
Comics (single issues)
Jessica Drew is awesome.
That’s it for me, and you may well add that that’s plenty for one person. What’s anyone else been getting their hands on?
What did you recently finish reading?
The ARC of Adam Christopher’s Hang Wire. Much fun, looking forward to going back to his previously published books. Also, in that case: superheroes! In this case, circuses and gods (including a trickster god!), a bit of a mystery, and maybe more than a touch of the thriller.
What are you currently reading?
Well, many things, as you can tell from this post. But most actively, Alphabet of Thorn, by Patricia McKillip. And I am eager to get my hands on all her books, especially the ones with the gorgeous covers like the one for Alphabet of Thorn — though not just because of the gorgeous covers. I remember not getting along that well with Winter Rose, but I loved The Changeling Sea and I love Alphabet of Thorn too: I love the writing style, the lyricism in it, I love the world of kings and intrigue and magic — and libraries. I love the slow, contemplative pace, too.
But hey, who does the paintings for the covers?!
Oh, and thanks to Olga Godim, I started Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I’m barely started on it, but I’m intrigued so far: Olga suggested it as a better alternative to The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, with emotions, magic realism and food. So far, I am enjoying it more. Particularly as it’s less conscious of being quirky than Lemon Cake felt. This one won’t count for my bet/incentive/thing with Mum, though, so really I should put it on a backburner…
What do you think you’ll read next? One of the books from my currently reading list previously linked! Probably A Red Herring Without Mustard, since I find Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce books really fast and easy to read, and I have an ARC of the latest to get to. I’m quite near to finishing Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin, too.
Books acquired: I bought Chuck Wendig’s Irregular Creatures (because it’s available for 75p!), and I’ve been given access to the ARC of Rachel Naumeier’s Black Dog on Netgalley — with this in the summary, how could I not? “Think of it as Robin McKinley’s SUNSHINE but with werewolves instead of vampires.”