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Big Machine: A Novel Paperback – March 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“LaValle is as much wry fabulist as he is dogged allegorist, and his flights of grim fancy are tethered by acute observations. He can be awfully funny, too. [His]devilish fable renders the visible world–of science, social hierarchies, and New York Times headlines–a load of cultish hooey.”
“Beautiful.” — Vanity Fair
“If Hieronymus Bosch and Lenny Bruce got knocked up by a woman with a large and compassionate heart, they might have brought forth Big Machine. But it is Victor LaValle's peculiar, poetic, rough and funny voice that brings it to us, alive and kicking and irresistible.”—Amy Bloom, author of the New York Times bestseller Away
“Big Machine is like nothing I’ve ever read, incredibly human and alien at the same time. LaValle writes like Gabriel Garcia Marquez mixed with Edgar Allen Poe, but this is even more than that. He’s written the first great book of the next America.”—Mos Def
“If the literary Gods mixed together Haruki Murakami and Ralph Ellison, and threw in several fistfuls of 21st century attitude, the result would be Victor LaValle. Big Machine is a wonderful, original, and crazy novel.” —Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and About Grace
“Victor LaValle is one of the finest writers around—puzzling but never abstruse, compassionate but never pitying. With The Ecstatic, he produced one of my favorite novels of the decade, and now, with Big Machine, he has produced another: a pristine window into a flawed human soul, but also a daring fantasy through which America and all its troubles come sliding gradually into focus.” —Kevin Brockmeier, author of A Brief History of the Dead
“Sure to up his critical standing while furthering comparisons to Haruki Murakami, John Kennedy Toole and Edgar Allan Poe. Ricky’s intoxicating voice—robust, organic, wily—is perfect for narrating LaValle’s high-stakes mashup of thrilling paranormal and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, as the fateful porter—something of a modern Odysseus rallied by a team of ‘spiritual X-men’—wanders through America’s ‘messianic hoo-hah.’”—Publishers Weekly, starred
From the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I found the writing in this book just brilliant. A real pleasure. Funny, insightful... A genuine joy to read.
On the other hand, the plot *does* descend into the supernatural and (as others have said) the just plain "weird" -- Too weird for me to really love the work.
The book is very richly detailed and well crafted. But throughout the book, I kept asking myself "What's he GETTING AT here? This character exposition is interesting, the writing is fun, the dialog is terrific... But what do ALL these various and interesting details MEAN in the larger scheme of things?" For example, what are we to take away from Adele's pre-Washburn torment? How does all the rich description of the washerwomen cult contribute to the overall theme of this book? Are we supposed to draw some sort of parallel between the lights in the hallway of the By The Bay hotel being smashed, and the lights in the stairwell during Ricky's last night with the washerwomen?
I couldn't help but wonder about these things.
And when things got supernatural I just wanted to know how everything ended. In fact, I didn't think the supernatural parts towards the end were the best crafted parts of the book -- I certainly felt there were some pretty weak plot turns (from the girl in the folklore society, to the guys who just happened to be in the lobby of By The Bay).
So... that's a conflicted review. I'm definitely looking forward to reading LaValle's next work.
All I will say about The Big Machine is that it's a very weird plot, and if you don't like "supernatural" ideas in your fiction, then you probably won't like this book. But if you can handle some truly weird and surprising story elements, then you're in for a treat.
Throughout a somewhat convoluted novel, LaValle manages to maintain stronger characterization and motivational consistency than I've seen in a very long time. His dialogue is spot-on, and subtly opens windows into his characters minds and backgrounds. As a reader, I totally believe in his characters, and I was moved and humbled by their agonizing struggles and transformations. For those reasons alone LaValle deserves five stars. But the (admittedly weird) story also is crafted in such an elegant and surprising way that it's worthy of more stars. I wish I could give him six or seven.
Heartily recommended ... with the caveat that readers should be prepared for weirdness.
Crazy Good (and at Times Just Plain Crazy)
- The best way I can describe LaValle's writing style is Urban Intellectual- told from the perspective of his main character, who has been around the block a few time (if you know what I'm sayin'), the reader understands that this man may not be book-smart, but is definitely life and street smart (with a few exceptions). I didn't feel as if I was reading LaValle write from Rice's perspective, I felt as if I was truly reading Rice's memoir.
- Rice's back story is just as interesting as what's going on in the present (a cult, heroin, flesh eating cats), which some author's fail to do. Another character's, Adele's, who becomes just as important, background is also divulged and is just as intriguing. LaValle deliberately creates flat characters and well-rounded ones, leaving no doubt who's important.
- One of the most important concepts of the book, redemption, really makes the reader turn inward, forcing them to examine their own values and willingness to forgive (others and themselves).
- This isn't a scifi book that's beating you over the head with aliens or time travel.Read more ›
The insight into cultish responses to supernatural phenomena, coupled with fast, modern writing rings of Don DeLillo (Mao II: A Novel) or even Chuck Palahniuk (Survivor: A Novel). That the author is a black novelist writing of a black everyman protagonist, in a very tour-de-force way, puts me in the mind of Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man). This novel is a fiercely sweeping and original take on contemporary America as it wrestles with its demons, be they literal or metaphorical.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I gave up after about 60 pages.
LaVelle devotes far too much time to being profound and mysterious than to telling the freaking story. Read more
When I began reading Big Machine, I had no idea what I was getting my imagination and intellectual mind into. Read morePublished 1 month ago by awesomnicity87
I heard about Victor LaValle through a review of THE BALLAD OF BLACK TOM, but I found BIG MACHINE at the library first and, having read both, actually prefer BIG MACHINE. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Gregory Stolze
Victor Lavalle has written a thought provoking novel forcing us to evaluate our own views on issues such as "socially unacceptable" people, the disenfranchised, and... Read morePublished 4 months ago by barbara french
Liked the storyline but disliked the many parts that dragged on endlessly. Couldn't wait to finish the book. Read morePublished 6 months ago by ColoredSpirit
Kind of a crazy, herky-jerky wordsmithing exercise. Lavalle at times shows flashes of brilliant writing and is able to both maintain and develop the two major characters... Read morePublished 8 months ago by mrthinkndrink
What a horrible book. Started off well enough but there came a point not quite 100 pages in where LaValle lost me. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jason Treadway