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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Sunday (4/23/17) 6:13pm - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.

Books:  Made to Kill
Movies:  Louis CK: 2017
TV:  <none>

Made to Kill by Adam Christopher
This is Adam Christopher's 2015 novel about a robot private eye.

And right there, you already know if you're in the tank for this novel or not.  Because I guarantee you, the novel you're writing in your head right now based on the suggestion "robot private eye" matches very well with the actual novel I just read.

The book takes place in an alternate-universe 1960s L.A., where robots were introduced years ago but decommissioned after public outcry, leaving "Raymond Electromatic" as the last robot left alive, working as a private detective but in recent years switching over to being a professional hit man.

Yes, the "Raymond" is a nod to Raymond Chandler.  I say this with some certainty because nearly everything in the book is a nod to Raymond Chandler.  Yes, the book is full of elaborate, writerly similes and comparisons.  Yes, the story kicks off with a femme fatale showing up in the office.  Yes, narrator has a wry emotional detachment, acting like he's just an operative doing a job and not letting feelings get in the way.

And on and on.

And it shouldn't be a complete surprise that the book veers away from Chandler into classic pulp sci-fi at about the halfway point.  Eventually there are Evil Plots to Take Over the World, and an Evil Roboticist, and big threatening machines with blinkenlights, and so on.  You know you're fully entrenched in gosh-wow pulp sci-fi, and have left noir far, far behind, when the story ends with an overly-expository epilogue explaining how all the good guys are okay, all the bad henchmen got theirs, and as for the Big Bad, well, he was defeated, but somehow, his body was never found....

Writing through that now, I feel a bit sad, imagining the story that might've been, if it were truer to its noir origins -- something smaller, and sadder, and without decisive good-guy victories.  It might've been a harder read, but it might've been more emotional.  As it was, you happily rolled along from one plot twist to the next, seeing things take shape in the 50s B-movie way you'd expect.

So I suppose I'm ambivalent about the book.  It's absolutely good 'beach read' material, something to tear through and have a rollicking good time reading.  It's a fun sci-fi alternate universe, one that doesn't get too bound up with the implications of its scientific advancements, but focuses instead on the fun little future-of-the-past details of having, say, a robot have to deposit magnetic tape drives of its memory at the end of every working day.

It clearly loves its source material, both on the 'Raymond Chandler' end and the 'lurid swci-fi extravaganza' end.  In some ways, the 'robot detective' conceit works well -- he is like the classic detectives in that he can get into a lot of places across the social spectrum ("Ooh, a robot!  Come and talk to us!"), while always being an outsider.

But it doesn't have any weight or meaning.  It's a light and frothy confection that starts drifting out of the mind even before you finish the last page.  As might be appropriate for a robot story, this one feels like a good 'turn your brain off and enjoy' novel.


Louis CK: 2017
This is Louis CK's recent Netflix stand-up special.

I have so little understanding of stand-up.  And that means, when I'm talking about a stand-up special, it's hard for me to do much besides shrug and mutter, "It was, y'know, funny."  The rhythms of his stand-up feel kind of familiar to me now -- most often, he'll wade into some controversial topic, and carefully walk us through to some take on the subject that's carefully reasoned, precisely logical, and guaranteed to leave everyone of all political/cultural persuasions feeling aghast.  Hell, he opens the show talking about abortion and takes us from there, step-by-step, to an animal on the savannah shrugging and deciding to eat its young.

I don't think it's his best work, but I'm shocked at the notion that he just dumps all his old material every year and then builds up a whole new hour-plus set.  2017 has an odd feeling like it's being offensive, and working with offensive topics, without really offending anybody.  Yes, he's mostly liberal, but he seems to float free of the typical red and blue worldviews -- you're intrigued by his unique point of view, and you're tickled that he says a lot of taboo things, but you never gasp and say, "Wow, somebody in this crowd is gonna be piiiiissed."

I was entertained, but I doubt I'll go back and watch it again.


For next week: I have to take a deep breath and write up Crazy Ex-Girlfriendand OJ: Made in America (dug both, lots to say about both).  At the moment, I'm watching season 2 of BoJack Horseman, listening to an audiocourse about mystery novels, and reading On the Origin of Species.  While exercising, I'm on season 11 of Good Eats and season 3 of Last Week Tonight.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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