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Gun Machine Hardcover – January 1, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 181 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Detective John Tallow is a classic burnout, sleepwalking on the job until the day his supercop partner (and only friend) is killed by a shotgun-wielding lunatic. The incident was Tallow’s first on-the-job shooting, and he doesn’t disagree with the majority view that he shouldn’t have been the cop left standing. Then, when a shrine of ritualistically displayed firearms is found in the apartment building where his partner died, Tallow finds himself wanting answers. Analysis of the cache connects each weapon to a murder, and Tallow is assigned to work with two wildly eccentric geniuses on the crime-scene unit to try to end the killer’s decades-long killing spree. Gun Machine is built around a trio of intoxicating weirdos who twist the mold of the familiar detective-and-forensic-specialist combo. Strong interplay between historic Manahatta (think Native American) and technology’s future role in policing creates a big-picture backdrop for catch-the-crazy-killer thrills. Lisa Black fans and those who love quirky characters in a high-stakes police procedural will find plenty to like here. --Christine Tran


"Wonderful...a blast...barbs that should have the scriptwriters for Bones scribbling on napkins. More fun than I've had out of a crime novel in a long time."―Michael Robbins, Chicago Tribune

"Ellis tackles the police procedural, although it's bloodier and more intriguing than any episode of Law & Order or CSI, and arms it with gallows humor, high-tension action scenes and an unlikely hero."―Brian Truitt, USA Today

"A pleasingly quirky crime thriller...Tallow is oddly endearing, so single-minded you can't help rooting for him...There is nothing comic-bookish about [Ellis's] writing, which races along in crisp hard-boiled fashion."―Charles McGrath, New York Times

"GUN MACHINE has a bunch of Ellis' signature gestures: characters with resonant names or no names at all, nightmarish near-future (and recent-past) gizmos, constant and gleeful vulgarity...The brutal cat-and-mouse game between Tallow and the killer suggests that the chaos of human malice can gum up even law enforcement's most elegant systems. More deeply, though, GUN MACHINE is about the ways the grimmer parts of America's history can ooze into the present day, and in particular about the country's deep, horrible connection to firearms."―Douglas Wolk, Los Angeles Times

"GUN MACHINE gives the fast paced, visceral detective story a sublime new treatment. Here is a book anyone interested in the Big Apple should read--it is not only a hunt for an unforgettable killer, but a quest to exhume the many New Yorks that have evaded our eye."―Darren Richard Carlaw, New York Journal of Books

"A mad police procedural just north of the border of dark fantasy. Delightful."―William Gibson, author of Neuromancer, Pattern Recognition and Spook Country

"The dialogue is rapid and witty, the action moves along, the city and its inhabitants are wonderfully violent, and the cat-and-mouse plot is satisfyingly solid...Ellis, an Englishman, completely nails New York and New Yorkers."―C.A. Bridges, Daytona Beach News-Journal

"Riveting. Inspired. Ellis does a fine job of adding a highly unusual spin on the genre. Ellis, a U.K. native, writes about New York and New Yorkers with no missteps, and while his vision of the city is that of an ultra-violent hellhole where vicious murders are commonplace, he peppers the narrative with humor and vivid descriptions of violence that are simultaneously beautiful and terrifying. Gun Machine propels the multitalented Ellis, already a household name in the world of comics, into the ranks of the best crime writers in the business."―Jason Starr, Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Warren Ellis has a terrific way with words...vivid [with] fully fleshed characters...a seriously good writer with a seriously wicked imagination."―Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review

"From the wrenching violence of its first pages to its bone-jarring conclusion, Gun Machine never lets go of the reader and never flags in its relentless pace. In the course of 300 tightly wound pages, Ellis unloads a full clip of ideas, black humor, character, and copper-sheathed action scenes. Every sentence is a bullseye."―Joe Hill, New York Times bestselling author of A Heart-Shaped Box and Horns

"Gun Machine is packing heat: wonderfully demented misfits, killer dialogue, a helluva story. Warren Ellis is a twisted genius and this is his grittiest, sexiest, and best work by far."―Lauren Beukes, Arthur C. Clark award-winning author of Zoo City and Moxyland

"Hellish fun."―Ian Rankin, author of Standing in Another Man's Grave

"Ellis has a knack for taking familiar pop culture shapes and making them new and remarkable. He's also funny, inventive, and into the bargain he can sneak pathos on you when you aren't looking. Oh, and he does great character and dialogue.

"GUN MACHINE is very, very Ellis. A detective hunting a serial killer in Manhattan could be totally run of the mill, but it isn't. In that respect the book reminds me of Josh Bazell's brilliant Beat The Reaper or one of Carl Hiaasen's off-kilter thrillers: it's acutely witty, a bit haunting, and huge fun."―Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World and Angelmaker

Gun Machine is built around a trio of intoxicating weirdoes who twist the mold of the familiar detective-and-forensic-specialist combo. Strong interplay between historic Manahatta (think Native American) and technology's future role in policing creates a big-picture backdrop for catch-the-crazy-killer thrills. Lisa Black fans and those who love quirky characters in a high-stakes police procedural will find plenty to like here."―Christine Tran, Booklist

"Gun Machine is a novel that never stops to draw breath. It's a monster of a book, bowel-looseningly scary in places, darkly uproarious in others, and remorseless as the killer who hunts in its pages...[GUN MACHINE] is particularly good, even by the high standards of a Warren Ellis tale."―Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing.net

"GUN MACHINE redraws the crime map of Manhattan; Ellis's bizarre, febrile imagination and mordant wit makes a serial killer thriller for a new century."―Charles Stross, author of Rule 34, Accelerando and Singularity Sky

"Underneath the pyrotechnic prose lies a perfectly paced mystery thriller. Ellis gets it so right."―Mike Carey, author of The Devil You Know

"Warren Ellis is one of the greatest writers of my generation not to mention my personal favorite. GUN MACHINE is a perfect example of why. Fiercely entertaining, compellingly crafted, and filled with big ideas and small that make the writer in me growl: damn, I wish I would've thought of that."―Brian Michael Bendis, writer of The Avengers, Ultimate Spider-Man, and Ultimate X-Men

"An inventive police procedural...Ellis' prose couldn't be more clean: His hero is a deep well of noirish bons mots, and sequences featuring police radio reports of humanity's daily degradations give the novel a grim but surprisingly poetic lift."―Kirkus Reviews

"Warren Ellis's work displays a knack for mad hilarity, merciless action, dark cynicism and incorruptible bravery."―Wired

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books (January 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316187402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316187404
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (181 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #898,004 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Instead of attending to chores, I procrastinated and began reading read Warren Ellis' book The Gun Machine in the afternoon. As dusk approached, I realized I was deeply and truly in over my head, trapped in a quicksand pit of AWESOME.

This book begins with a naked man with a shotgun. I think you can tell from that if this is a book for you. If you are a fan of Ellis-penned comics and graphic novels, you WILL enjoy this book too. It is all murder and guns-as-fetish-objects and totally insane people and foul-mouthed cops and filthy human beings and EXACTLY what I didn't know I wanted.

It's a lot of the things that I loved about Transmetropolitan, Ellis' best comics work, but in munchable prose snack form. While Warren Ellis' first book, Crooked Little Vein, was amusing, it didn't feel like a full novel because it was a series of disgusting/hilarious but linear events. The Gun Machine has excellent depth of plotting and addictive characterization. Tallow, Bat, Scarly, the Hunter -- now they're in my head and will be running about for a long time. Looks like Warren Ellis taught himself to write a real novel. SO CUTE. In a Ellis-esque violent misanthropic way, of course.

I didn't eat and barely budged from my seat while reading The Gun Machine at breakneck speed. The same may happen to you. Forewarned is forearmed. With guns.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gun Machine is a story working on two layers. The first layer is a well written thriller where a policeman and a serial killer stalk each other across Manhattan. The second layer is more interesting to me- the ghost maps of modern life. "Ghost Maps" is a term Ellis introduces midway through the book, describing things like the old paths of rivers running across the island, the geographical distribution of surveillance cameras, police precinct boundaries, informational lag time in information networks as a measure of distance versus geographical distance and many more ideas of a similar nature. It is the informational overlay we place over our environment, and how that environment is shaped by forces invisible to us, that forms the intellectual backbone of Ghost Machine. It is a highly sophisticated view of cities and very thought provoking. It is a particularly unusual way to frame a murder mystery.

And more than brainy- Gun Machine is funny. Bleakly, blackly, horribly funny. Warren Ellis established his gift for a searing turn of phrase back in his graphic novel days and it's put to good use here! His description of Sumo should see the sport spike in popularity in bars across America. I won't spoil the jokes, but oh god are they funny. Ellis is clearly a firm believer in the theory that tragedy and comedy are best deployed proportionately and in conjunction.

The characters are well rounded and interesting. They live in a plausible world, and they behave with a pleasing degree of rationality. This may be an overreaction on my part, but I seem to have read a great number of books recently where many plot defining challenges would have been overcome by a reasonably emotionally stable seventh grader.
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Format: Hardcover
Warren Ellis is a superb comic book writer and knows how to create prose that sticks pokes you in the ribs like a dagger. "Gun Machine" has many of his hallmarks, a frustrated and cynical protagonist, a group of oddly endearing supporting characters and horrible people doing horrible things for unusual reasons.

While the set-up is interesting, the reveal of the story is a bit too coincidental, a few too many people show up at just the right time with just the right information and characters go off on long'ish expositional monologues to a leading character they've just met and have little reason to talk so openly to. It doesn't kill the book but it certainly lessens the impact of what is a very clever idea for a story.

Ellis's flair for prose is in full bloom. If only the plot were just as ripe.
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Format: Hardcover
No, I haven't got it backwards...the title of Warren Ellis's latest novel is Gun Machine.

And it was a great book to start off the New Year with a bang. The opening line hooked me...

..."On playing back the 911 recording, it'd seem that Mrs. Stegman was more concerned that the man outside her apartment door was naked than that he had a big shotgun."

Detective John Tallow is sent to investigate and what he finds is more that anyone could have imagined. One of the apartments in the building is full of guns. Not piles of guns, but meticulously displayed and mounted guns, all in a unfathomable pattern. And when the techs start testing the guns they find something even more unthinkable. Each of the guns has been used in an unsolved murder, starting over twenty years ago.

Tallow is one of those burned out but brilliant characters I love to discover. "You're at the age where the rush of the job has passed and the grind of the job is taken in stride, and this is the time when you're wondering if it wouldn't be so bad if you just stopped giving much of a s*** and rolled along doing as little as possible."

Just as intriguing were the pair of supporting characters in the cast - Bat and Scarly - brilliant Crime Scene Unit Investigators, but misfits themselves. Yes, they were a bit over the top, but I really enjoyed them.

But, it seems that the higher up really don't want the case solved - roadblocks appear in Tallow's path and the owner of the guns has Tallow in his sights....

Ellis has penned a unique entry in the crime scene genre - the characters really grabbed me and I hope he plans to employ them again. The killer was truly psychotic - his view of the world past and present was a technique I quite liked.
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