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Gun, With Occasional Music: A Novel First Edition Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312858780
ISBN-10: 0312858787
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Lethem's first novel is a work of noir science fiction inhabited by animal gangsters and a gritty futuristic P.I.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Private detective Conrad Metcalf finds himself the victim of an official inquisition when the murder of a former client and an obvious cover-up attempt lead him into dangerous political territory. Set in a near-future where only police and detectives are licensed to ask questions and where drugs to suppress memory are commonplace, this first novel imparts a new meaning to the word mystery . Spare prose and tight plotting create a taut sf thriller that should appeal to both sf and mystery fans.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (January 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312858787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312858780
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,159,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Gun, With Occasional Music" is my first Jonathan Lethem book, and it certainly won't be my last. Although reading just one of his books hardly ranks me as an expert on his career, I will say that this story about a private detective in a future, dystopian nightmare will probably be one of the most unusual experiences you'll ever have with a book (unless you make a habit of reading quirky, ultra bizarre fiction). Lethem must have been the product of a union between Raymond Chandler and William Burroughs, with genetic material donated by Dashiell Hammett and Aldous Huxley. That's the only way to describe this amazing blend of noir, science fiction, and political commentary. "Gun, With Occasional Music" is the type of book you introduce your friends to in order to see their reaction after they finish it.
Lethem's future is one in which I would not want to visit, let alone live in. For private investigator Conrad Metcalf, this nightmare is the only world he knows. What's so bad about this author's horrific visions? In the world of tomorrow, society is quite different from the world we know. For one thing, animals (rabbits, sheep, kangaroos, and cats) now walk upright, speak, commit crimes, and work. It's all a part of what authorities call "evolving," and it isn't just about the animals. Human infants take part in the hijinks as well, since society decided that it takes too long for people to grow up. The result is "babyheads," infants that speak, smoke, and drink thanks to massive infusions of growth hormones. As if that's not enough to cause you screaming fits, and apparently many of the people in this brave new world feel like screaming about it, the authorities provide "make," a drug used to modify behavior.
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By D. Smith on February 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
After reading Letham's less-than-coherent "Amnesia Moon," I almost made the mistake of not reading him again, but a couple of reviews posted here convinced me otherwise. This book was magnificent: brilliant ideas and brilliant writing. I'm just surprised that I hadn't heard more about this author, because this work is far superior to most modern fiction I've read. Not being much of a genre fan myself, it was nice to see a hard-boiled detective story in a sci-fi (though entirely conceivable sci-fi) setting. Rich, developed characters (be they detectives, doctors, evolved apes or tiny mental giants) and a thick plot with no holes in the story to worry about. Be forwarned, its a real page-turner, and not something you want to pick up unless you've got a day or two free.
Comment 29 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
I read this book in one sitting, feeling like I had snorted a mixtue of Regrettol and Addictol, two of the many govenment-sponsored drugs made available for free to citizens of this future world. The narrator's personal blend of drugs was "skewed heavily towards Acceptol, with just a touch of Regrettol to provide that bittersweet edge, and enough addictol to keep me craving it even in my darkest moments." The blend he delivered to me, however, was light on the Acceptol.
This bittersweet story would be too depressing to recommend to anyone were it not for the humor, which had me laughing out loud. Metcalf and the kangaroo are worth reading again and again, but with little jokes like Testafer "Here's a tip, Grover. You're supposed to go first-" "Shut up." Well, I'd tried to warn him" I was reading dectective fiction as good as Chandler, to whom the book is inscribed.
This is some of the best fiction I've ever read and I recommend it highly.
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Format: Paperback
I guess I hold a minority view here, I was somewhat disappointed by "Gun, With Occasional Music."
The "comic noir" angle seemed overplayed, and the "forced evolution" trick served no real purpose I could discern. All the audaciousness and bold experimentation we've come to expect from Lethem was here (in spades... Sam Spades) but unlike, say, "Girl In Landscape" or "The Wall of the Sky" in this book they just made it seem mannered and self-conscious.
Still a very entertaining read, and way beyond run-of-the-mill, but as someone who has written some of the most inventive current fiction, he has far outdone this book in later works.
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Format: Paperback
"You got SF tropes in my hardboiled crime story!" "No, you got a detective story in my dystopian-future novel!"
As others have said, this book is excellent, and definitely worth the read (the style alone is worth the price of admission, even if you ultimately decide you didn't like the admittedly tough-to-favor story.) However, I feel compelled to interject that I thought its focus tended to waver. Most of the book was a detective novel; but there were several portions that abandoned that storyline entirely and just wandered off into worldbuilding. Indeed, this book would have been nearly the same if the often murkily-explained SF stuff had been removed entirely. (it took me a while to figure out exactly what a babyhead was, and I'm still unclear on why people thought it was a good idea to make so many of them.)
However, the SF portions of the story _do_ serve well to make the setting more bizarre, and separate from the real world--and that's what books are all about. I'd have just liked to see better integration between the setting and the plot.
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