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Killing Is My Business: A Ray Electromatic Mystery (Ray Electromatic Mysteries) Kindle Edition
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This book, especially compared to the previous ones, was totally unsatisfactory.
Ray Electromatic is the last robot on Earth; all of the rest of his kind (and there once was a world full of them) long gone to the scrap heaps. And since his original programming as a detective is not in high demand, Ray’s handler Ada (a 1960s era supercomputer with room size modules and miles of magnetic tape) has begun hiring him out as a robot assassin of sorts. Ray excelling at his new career, working for the mob mainly, and finding himself in high demand.
But Ray is a robot with limitations. Every night he must recharge his batteries and have his memory wiped by Ada, because his memory module only holds 24 hours worth of data. Each sunrise finding our robot killer awakening to a new world with only Ada’s morning briefing to give him the information he needs for another day. So it isn’t too far from the truth to say Ray gets to rediscover the world each and every day.
In Killing is My Business, Ray finds himself hired by a Don whom he saved from a nasty bloodbath at a restaurant. The assignment to infiltrate a gang and off the mob boss. What ensues is a mysterious scheme, femme fatales, g-men, car chases, fake identities, murder, more murder, and a cool conclusion to it all.
As a lover of genre blender fiction, it probably comes as no surprise that I really enjoyed this story. We all crave something different in our reading, and Adam Christopher’s blending of mystery noir and science fiction really gave me that. What was even more surprising was that I loved the mystery elements here more than the sci fi. Strange, I know, because I don’t read many mystery novels. But here it was the whodunit elements which I found the most fun, which kept me thinking, and which made me want to keep turning pages to find out what would happen next.
The only thing I didn’t completely love about the book was the final reveal. I saw it coming and desperately wished I was wrong. For that reason I can’t give the book a five star rating, but other than that, I can’t complain about anything.
Killing is My Business is a cool, fun book. It is a mystery starring a robot in a steampunk-esque 1960s. If that description by itself doesn’t make you want to give this series a try I don’t know what will. Highly recommended!
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.
Ray Electromatic, the last robot in a world that used to be full of them, was programmed to be a private investigator...but killing pays better. His handler, a computer named Ada, gives him his work orders. She also wipes his memory each night. His most recent job was saving a mafia Don from a restaurant bloodbath a la The Godfather. Once done, he is offered another job by the Don. Ray is then involved in a mysterious scheme involving car chases, fake identities and plenty of murder.
Originally, I thought this was a parody of 1940's hard-boiled detectives utilizing a kitschy robot. However, it is much more than that. There is real science fiction world building in this novel. It is as if steampunk continued growing until the mid-1960's. The setting and atmosphere are equally gritty and consistent. The plot has the same exuberance for the future as steampunk stories do. The mystery was good though the resolution was a bit obvious (at least to someone who has read as many mysteries as I have). I loved that, though the main plot line was solved, there was a subplot left to be resolved in the next book in the series. I can't wait!
I would recommend this book to hard-boiled detective fans but especially to those who enjoy steampunk thrillers like Leviathan and Kraken.
Thanks to the publisher, Tor Books, and netgalley for an advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.
The noir/sci-fi mashup is set in a 1960s Los Angeles and in a world that was once rife with robots but that then decided it had been a failed experiment and so rounded them up for destruction. All save Ray, the last one made and also a bit unique thanks to some special upgrading by his creator. Programmed to be a detective, Ray’s computer boss Ada decided that PI work wasn’t paying the bills and so moved Ray into the more lucrative hitman business (thus the title). Ray’s first target in Killing Is My Business is killed off in the first few pages, which sounds great for an assassin protagonist, save that Ray had nothing to do with the killing. Eventually he moves on to another job, this one a Sicilian don holed up in a castle-like mansion in LA, paranoid apparently that someone is after him (someone of course is). But that first job continues to haunt the book and Ray’s memory circuits, though only in glimmers and glimpses, since Ray’s “life” is complicated by the fact that his memory is limited to a 24-hour period. Each day he wakes up having to be told by Ada the “need to know” information from the day before.
This memory issue offers up some nicely built-in tension, as one is never quite sure how level Ada is being with Ray or whether she truly has his best interests at heart. It also means the reader picks up on things Ray does not, since we’ll see important pieces of the puzzle — a particular car, a face — that don’t mesh for Ray into a larger picture because he doesn’t recall those details from earlier encounters. This is humorously emphasized by the way he keeps picking up the same book and starting from the beginning, despite the dog-eared pages marking how far he’d gotten in it in earlier attempts at reading it. While I liked the potential of this complicating factor, sometimes it can be a little frustrating and it can also lead to some repetition, even on a sentence level, as Ray tells us a number of times that some little detail buzzed his circuits.
One complaint I had about the first book was that the Chandler-esque language, while often successful executed (especially at the start) sometimes felt forced or overdone, especially through an overuse of hard-bitten similes. That tic has disappeared here, and I had few issues with the style in terms of it feeling forced, but unfortunately it felt like the fixes created a new problem: a more bland, pallid kind of style, one that was no longer problematic but that also lacked any sparkle or energy.
Similarly, Made to Kill’s gaping plot holes have mostly been patched, but while an improvement on a basic craft level, the story failed to excite or compel, and some points seemed a bit too easy for a reader to suss out for a mystery. And there remained a few issues with plausibility or points at which characters’ actions or reactions (or lack of action/reaction) didn’t seem all that plausible. The novel does resolve its main story while extending a larger mystery that one assumes will be further revealed or perhaps concluded in a third book.
The characters themselves were thin, feeling more like simple props in the story than living, breathing people. The non-living character, Ray, has some complexity to him in that the reader is pre-disposed to like him, being that he is the protagonist, the narrator, and has the vulnerability of that memory limit. But then there’s the whole hitman thing, and his wiliness to knock off the innocent, so there’s a nice level of grey to him. But it’s tempered somewhat by the fact that he’s programmed to be that way, and while he does have a personality in a sense, it remained difficult for me to warm to him as an engaging character.
So in lots of ways, Killing Is My Business shows some real improvement in the basic construction of a novel, but nothing about it — plot, prose style, characterization — really grabbed me and though it clocks in at under 300 pages, it felt like a longer read than that. Here’s hoping book three will show continued improvement
(originally appeared on fantasyliterature.com)
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