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Big Machine: A Novel Paperback – March 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. LaValle has garnered critical acclaim for his previous works (a collection, Slapboxing with Jesus, and novel, The Ecstatic), and his second novel is sure to up his critical standing while furthering comparisons to Haruki Murakami, John Kennedy Toole and Edgar Allan Poe. Gritty, mostly honest-hearted ex-heroin addict protagonist Ricky Rice takes a chance on an anonymous note delivered to him at the cruddy upstate New York bus depot where he works as a porter. Quickly, Ricky finds himself among the Unlikely Scholars, a secret society of ex-addicts and petty criminals, all black like him, living in remote Vermont and sifting through stacks of articles in a library devoted to investigating the supernatural; the existence of a god; and the legacy of Judah Washburn, an escaped slave who claimed to have had contact with a higher being that the Unlikely Scholars now call the Voice. 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. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
“Fractures all of our notions of how well-made fiction ought to behave. . .idea-hungry and haywire, too alive and abrasive to be missed. The multicultural novel has come of age — smashingly.” — Kirkus (starred)
“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.
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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. While there are some visible elements, especially towards the end, the text is scifi in the sense that it presents different explanations and possibilities for how we view life around us and how people communicate.
- LaValle gives credit to Darth Vader.
Nor For You
- If you don't care for different ideas involving religion
- Are turned off by drug or sex references
- Don't want to have to pay attention
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and am excited to read other works by Victor LaValle
the characters within the story reminds me of stories by authors like isabel allende, early barbara kingsolver, and kurt vonnegut- all great writers with fantastic imaginations. not very ordinary characters. maybe they came from the pages of junot diaz and ended up in the world of kurt vonnegut. that is quite a journey. but a journey that makes sense, within the framework of this storyline.
some of the story is heartbreaking, some is funny, all of it is strange, but in a good way....the writer is a great writer, that is very clear. i am not sure how to underline in my kindle, but there were certain passages i wanted to underline because they were written so well; some of the thoughts were so profound, and so poetic.
if you don't understand this story at first, i'd say: go with it, and you will be rewarded. this is a very special book, and the writer, clearly a very special writer. i'm going to look up his other books.
i actually was reading something on a sci-fi book site about a writer who has a book coming out featuring a devil in an insane asylum. the book sounded interesting, and the article mentioned one of the author's earlier books, called "big machine". i remembered i'd bought a book with that name some time ago, in a kindle free or .99 offer, and i found it in my kindle. book #378 of #689. yes, i have accumulated quite a few books, to say the least. and most are of that price range- cheap to free. i started reading "big machine" and found myself captured by the main character, invested in what happens to him..... and then the story got stranger and stranger, but i held on....so glad i did.
The "Ralph Ellison meets Thomas Pynchon" blurb is probably what sold it to me, but I don't really agree. I'd say the closest comparison is Steve Erickson.
Their mission is to track the "gobelins" and find proof of them.
You do have to suspend your disbelief at elements of the story however Lavale has written the book expertly enough to enable the reader to achieve this, having spend the earlier sections of the novel rooted in establishing a relationship and describing the background of the main character Ricky Rice.
Most recent customer reviews
LaVelle devotes far too much time to being profound and mysterious than to telling the freaking story.Read more