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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, strange novel with some great writing...
I figure that someone recommended this title to me, as it's not the type of book I would normally pick up on my own... Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. I don't think I'd necessarily say it was the best novel I've ever read, and I'd be cautious to recommend it to someone due to its very raw nature. But in terms of creative and unique writing style, this ranks right...
Published on September 9, 2007 by Thomas Duff

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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Transmet's Little Brother
I just finished reading Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis, the same guy who wrote the comic series Transmetropolitan among others. I had really really looked forward to this book, and I tore through it in the same of about 2 hours.

Which makes me all the more sad to say that I was disappointed in it. It felt like Transmet's little brother, who hadn't grown...
Published on October 10, 2007 by Jason Wayne Jacobs


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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, strange novel with some great writing..., September 9, 2007
I figure that someone recommended this title to me, as it's not the type of book I would normally pick up on my own... Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. I don't think I'd necessarily say it was the best novel I've ever read, and I'd be cautious to recommend it to someone due to its very raw nature. But in terms of creative and unique writing style, this ranks right up there.

The story involves Michael McGill, a struggling private investigator in New York, who is described as a "s..t magnet". Because of his unwanted ability to turn up in situations involving the seamy, ugly part of human activities, he's hired to track down a special book. The book is an alternative Constitution to be used if and when the original version stops influencing society. A whacked-out chief of staff to the President brings him up-to-date on what the government knows, and McGill has to pick up the cold thread from there. Half a million dollars for expenses and a tattooed girlfriend with unique views on sexuality, and he's off on a cross-country trip that exposes him to practices and kinks that he didn't know existed. Along the way, he has to confront his ideas as to what is right and wrong, what should and shouldn't be allowed in a free society.

The book isn't overly long (280 pages in a format about 2/3 the page size of a regular book), so the read is quick. The language would give it an R rating from page 1 if this were a movie. And the kinky practices... These are some things I've never heard of nor imagined. What's scary is that a search of the internet confirmed that these things are truly fetish practices, complete with pictures (e[...]) There's a deeper message that Ellis is trying to convey (I think), but it's definitely not a message or philosophy that would mesh with my own. For me, the best part of the book was the writing. It's reminiscent of a dark 50's PI novel, only with a bizarre cast of characters and plenty of cynicism. His prior work involved graphic novels, so it doesn't surprise me that he is able to paint a scene with few words but an abundance of detail. If you can pull off a chapter that has a single sentence and have it work, you know your stuff...

Not a book to read if you're easily offended or looking for some action-adventure mind candy. But if you're wanting something out of the mainstream with some great writing, check it out...
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Transmet's Little Brother, October 10, 2007
I just finished reading Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis, the same guy who wrote the comic series Transmetropolitan among others. I had really really looked forward to this book, and I tore through it in the same of about 2 hours.

Which makes me all the more sad to say that I was disappointed in it. It felt like Transmet's little brother, who hadn't grown enough plot to stand on it's own two feet yet. The storyline is a parade of 'underground' fetishes, with a special float dedicated to the wonders of technology thrown in right after the marching band of bukkake fans. I kept wondering why the hell a private detective would have been put on the case, when the 'leads' were a straight line that a community college criminal justice major could have followed, much less the combined powers of the government spooks. And while the dialogue was entertaining, I didn't feel any kind of attachment to the two dimensional characters either.

I did find Ellis' writing style to be intriguing and the book certainly sucks you in, though I think that's more because I kept wanting to see what bizarreness is going to pop up next and hoping maybe it will start to have some meaning.

I'm sure that some with argue that there are plenty of themes and metaphors and deep universal truths to be found in the book, and maybe so, but it still feels watered down compared to what I was hoping for. That said, if you're not as jaded to the multitude of sexual deviances as I am, it's certainly worth a read for the amusing sideshow, if nothing else.
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62 of 82 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The emperor has no clothes... literally..., September 29, 2007
The more I think about the book, the less I like it. It was a quick read and I enjoyed reading it, to be sure, but as I think on it, there really isn't much going on there.

Take away the fetishes and you're left with an ostensible mystery in which the heroes are handed the exact clue they were looking for at the right time without any real pitfalls or dead ends. It's well written, but that's not enough to disguise a plot that is little more than very kinky ride at Disneyland: it may appear dangerous and edgy at first glance, but really you're on rails for a guided tour. "The Godzilla fetishists are chasing us! Whew! That was close, wasn't it?"

Not even close. Our Heroes move from plot point to plot point without any sense of tension or dread, just an ever diminishing sense of shock.

I'm glad I read it, I guess, but I wouldn't exactly want to recommend it to anyone else.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Colossal anticlimax, March 31, 2010
If this book were even half as clever as it thinks it is, we would have a minor masterpiece on our hands. Unfortunately it's not. Having been suckered into buying it by the viral site [...], I now regret it and am massively disappointed. Cliche ridden gross out humour that was done better and with far more finesse 2 decades ago on Usenet's alt.tasteless group. This is old. This is tired. It is not even written with any distinct style that could redeem it. Were I a cynic, I would say it was constructed out of noir pulp paper backs and usenet post cut ups. It's going into this years secret Santa pool without the slightest twinge of regret.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unflinching, extremely funny book, August 14, 2007
Ok I nearly put this book down after reading the first page about a rat pissing in our hero's (anti-hero's?) coffee-I have a thing about rats- but I'm glad I didn't. I became so engrossed in the book I read it in one sitting. While a quick, funny read, this book also touches on some important issues about our country and culture. What is "underground" in a society where anyone has access to the internet can find information about anything no matter how disturbing to some? Shouldn't tolerance and diversity not conformity be considered our strength? If you have a weak stomach or closed mind stay away, otherwise I think you'll find this a thouroughly enjoyable and thought provoking book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not great, but lots of larfs...., May 16, 2010
Other reviewers have pointed to similarities to Borroughs "Naked Lunch," however, the influences I see here are Raymond Chandler, George Bataille's "Histoire De l'Oeil," the Simpsons, Harry Stephen Keeler, Bizzaro-Fiction, and Michael O'Donahuge's "Phoebe Zeitgeist."
Middle-aged, broke, down and out detective is contacted by the President of the United States' chief of staff, who is a highly functioning heroin addict. The McGuffin is a book, of which there is only one surviving copy of two, which contains the REAL constitution of the U.S.A. and all the secret Alien-Masonic stuff we all want to know. Apparently reading it turns folks into Stepford Citizens, and America looks like the set for "Leave it to Beaver" again.
However, contemporary America is a place where beautiful bisexual 20-somethings named "Trix" with duel full-sleeve tattoos fall in love with chain smoking non-descript pudgy middle-aged detectives....and that is the LEAST implausible thing that happens in this romp.
The plot is simply a device for Ellis to write about the various high weirdness he mined off the internet in the late 1990s. The book is therefore dated, as the internet has gotten both weirder (just Google "Mr. Hands" or "Kenneth Pinyan") and more banal (Facebook anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?) since it was published.
If you are looking for shock value, this isn't it. Still, Ellis has a funny crisp prose and delightful turns of phrase.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warren Ellis at his Transgressive Best, August 4, 2007
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Comic book shock-jock Warren Ellis appears to have glanced over Irvine Welsh's body of work and decided he could freak people out better than that if he moved over to straight prose. Or perhaps he had some story ideas (I'm thinking particularly of a subculture of people who inject saline solution in parts of the body you probably wouldn't think of injecting anything into) that not even the popular Mr. Ellis could find artists iron-stomached enough to draw. Whatever the reason Ellis turned to novels, his is the most auspicious prose debut from a comic-book writer I've read yet.

Crooked Little Vein is a detective novel crossed with a road movie, in which long-suffering loser detective Mike McGill traipses through the seedy underbelly of the United States in search of a book the President's chief of staff believes is the magical Second Constitution of the United States, to be used only in case of emergency. McGill's search is Ellis's excuse to parade his prosaic protagonist before a series of weirdoes and deviants - but not just for our amusement. Between jokes, Ellis also argues that weirdoes and deviants are part of what makes America great, and, in a repeated theme, that you can hardly call them "underground" or "non-mainstream" when anyone with a computer can find out as much about them as an initiate into their mysteries. Ellis's pitch for tolerance will stretch your mind no matter how tolerant you think you are, I'll wager.

But the moral of Crooked Little Vein does not overpower the book, which is mostly a transgressive travelogue designed to test the bounds of one's sense of humor and gag reflex. Ellis's comic-book fans will find him in his best form since Transmetropolitan and will be pleased to know his skills work well in pure prose. And, though I imagine a number of readers will find the humor and situations too extreme, I figure since Irvine Welsh's humanistic gross-outs find readers, Ellis will find plenty of new fans with Crooked Little Vein.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it..., August 15, 2007
By 
P. McGinty (Charlottesville, VA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
...though it is embarrassingly short. By god, I've had bowel movements that lasted longer than it took me to read this book. And I'm a ponderous reader with a mightily efficacious GI tract.

A moment for a major qualm: Ellis seems a little too eager to, you know, really "push the envelope" of taste & co., and this novel--strike that, this novella--is rife with "lurid" and "in-your-face" descriptions of "unnatural" or "perverse" acts. The majority of this material is too obviously endweighted for shock effect. And I don't think that the modern reader really can be shocked, inasmuch as s/he wants to be. Instead, there's this niggling sensation that one is supposed to be shocked, that the author wants this reaction, and thus the reader is kind of slapped in the face with the artifice of the story.

Then again, cultural approbation and acclimation are underlying themes of this novella, as is the supervening relationship between culture and technology. More here than in any of Ellis' other works, you get the sense of an emerging thesis--that we are all of us only catching on to the possibilities of an ever-emerging world for which we are never fully prepared, etc.

There are approximately two people and one human relationship in the novel; everything else is a glorious cartoon, and to be taken as such. The two main characters--Mike the protag and his galpal Trix--are real enough for as short a story as this is. And because the book's so short, their relationship seems a little too fast. Ellis gets us from zero to love in about 240 pages; that's slower than Harlequin, but almost double the speed of mainstream chick lit. But we're not reading it for the romance, are we?

No, we're reading it because it's funny. This book is hilarious, and it assaults you, buffets you, stones and maims you with its wit and easy humor. Ellis' metaphors and Mike's misfortunes will have you laughing so hard that anyone within earshot will begin edging uneasily away. And the banter--granted, it feels so damned *written*, but you'll forgive it anyhow--the banter will tickle your soft parts hard.

If you're a fan of Ellis, you should already own this book. But so should anyone else looking for something wildly comic. And anyway, even if you don't like it, you won't have wasted more than a few hours of your disposable luxury time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Warren Ellis' Problem Is, He Thinks He's Warren Ellis, September 3, 2010
By 
S. McDonnell (Northern California, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (P.S.) (Paperback)
There's a well-known guideline in writing: if your characters are commenting on the problems with your story, you need to step back and re-evaluate what you're writing. Warren Ellis omitted to do this while writing "Crooked Little Vein," and the result was so ugly that I couldn't read past the part where the main character notices that what he's doing is ridiculous and implausible, as though daring you to read further and have your suspension of disbelief further abused. There are enough good books in the world that don't insult me for giving them my time; I certainly won't spend any more on this determinedly ungrateful novel.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Light and insane, July 25, 2007
By 
J. McCance (Ann Arbor, MI USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
"Crooked Little Vein" is a quick, hilarious, and insane read, instantly identifiable as Ellis by anyone familiar his previous work. For those who aren't, be prepared to have weak stomachs tested and sensitive dispositions beaten with sticks. While not as wild as I was expecting based on the hype (Jacket quote from William Gibson: "Stop it. You're frightening me."), it definitely has Ellis's classic, over-the-top situations: a drunken, bitter flight attendant handing out box cutters in the airport; an insane, naked oil baron hunting, garroting, and eating cows raw on his Texas ranch; and, of course, an alternative US constitution bound in the hide of an extraterrestrial entity that kept sticking things up Benjamin Franklin's backside.

While I wouldn't call this book high literature (whatever that means), Ellis does include some interesting cultural commentary among the madness. What is the "real" America? What is mainstream in a world where everything has a website? What happens when a single person can snap a video on their phone pass it to the entire world in a matter of minutes? These philosophical interludes are well-handled and interesting, slipped neatly between the major events of the story without seeming forced.

I highly recommend this book to Ellis's fans, especially those who enjoyed the commentary of "Transmetropolitan" (Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street) or the humor of "Nextwave" (Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. 1-6 Set (1-6)). For everyone else, expect a fun, quick, manic, thought-provoking read.
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Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (P.S.)
Crooked Little Vein: A Novel (P.S.) by Warren Ellis (Paperback - July 22, 2008)
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