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Warren Ellis - Crooked Little Vein [book] (Cover Artwork)

Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis: Crooked Little Vein [book]Crooked Little Vein [book] (2007)
William Morrow / HarperCollins

Reviewer Rating: 5


Contributed by: JesseJesse
(others by this writer | submit your own)

I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug. It was a huge brown bastard; had a body like a turd with legs and beady black eyes full of secret rat knowledge. Making a smug huffing sound, it threw itself from the table to the floor, and scuttled back into the hole in the wall where.


I opened my eyes to see the rat taking a piss in my coffee mug. It was a huge brown bastard; had a body like a turd with legs and beady black eyes full of secret rat knowledge. Making a smug huffing sound, it threw itself from the table to the floor, and scuttled back into the hole in the wall where it had spent the last three months planning new ways to screw me around. I'd tried nailing wood over the gap in the wainscot, but it gnawed through it and spat the wet pieces into my shoes. After that, I spiked bait with warfarin, but the poison seemed to somehow cause it to evolve and become a super-rat. I nailed it across the eyes once with a lucky shot with the butt of my gun, but it got up again and shat in my telephone.
(pp 1)

The opening paragraph to the book. And we're just getting started. This of course being the first book by Warren Ellis, comic writer mastermind. Or at least, the first one I've heard of. The press sheet doesn't say shit about previous works, but it also doesn't say, "DEBUT NOVEL BY A GUY WHO USUALLY WRITES COMICS," so I'm not too sure. Really, I don't care. Because this book is fucking brilliant.

What we seem to have here is Mr. Ellis' take on detective fiction. Our hero/narrator, Mike McGill, is an ex-Pinkerton man from Chicago who set up shop in New York City. He's a shit-magnet. This means he attracts the seediest crap for no apparent reason. Some might just call it bad luck. But apparently the President's heroin / monkey shit-shooting chief of staff sees this as a positive quality in our hero because he hires McGill to hunt down the Second Constitution (which is a near magical book that will be able to re-program Americans to be pure if read aloud to them). Soon after he meets Trix, a tattooed, fetish-fascinated woman who is writing a thesis about the disturbing fetishist cultures that exist in the seedy underground (more on this later).

I'm not sure if this is deliberate or just habit from comic writing, but Warren keeps the book centered around dialogue, and while I definitely would have liked some more description of some settings, he is able to make the pace of the book fly. I seriously read the whole thing in like, two hours or something. Which is a good thing. Because I probably wouldn't have stopped reading it until it was done.

On their journey, McGill and Trix meet people who like jacking off to Godzilla movies, dudes who inject saline into their balls, crazy-rich coke-fiend oil barons, and other fucked up subcultures that society would generally frown upon. It's like he's taken the world of Hunter S. Thompson and made it real. That is, to say, he reversed the roles -- the narrator is the straight one while the rest of America is FUCKED. IN. THE. HEAD. By reversing the roles, he's given the average reader someone to identify with when hearing stories about a group of people who got their jollies by fucking doped up ostriches.

The whole book can actually be seen as a vehicle for introducing the average American to the fucked-up-ness that is the world of loosely associated perverts and wackos, organized mostly by the Internet. Everything is explained at length (which is kind of annoying if you already understand how the Interwebbs work [it's tubes, right?]). But here's the kicker: Warren Ellis isn't trying to bend minds by introducing the general public to these issues; he's trying to make you understand that this isn't a minority. I think it was put best by the serial killer that McGill talks to on the plane. The serial killer talks about how he's had twelve TV documentaries, three movies, and eight books written about him, and how this has made him extremely popular and a mainstay in the mainstream culture.

He says: "I am the mainstream. I am, in fact, the only true rock star of the modern age. Every newspaper in America never fails to report on my comeback tours, and I get excellent reviews." (pp 163)

If this wasn't enough, he quips later: "Consider this, though. If I've seen it on the Internet, is it still underground? 'Underground' always connoted something hidden, something difficult to see and find. Something underneath the surface of things, yes? But if it's on the Internet -- and I do praise the Lord that I lived long enough to see such a wondrous thing -- it cannot possibly be underground. . . My point, however, is that the Internet is more than a system for holding pictures, whether it be of people's backsides or my hands all slick and yellow with human subcutaneous fat. It is the greatest mass-communication tool ever invented, and utterly democratic beyond the entry-level requirement of having a computer." (pp 164)

Makes a scary sort of sense, don't it? The next best part comes when in Las Vegas, McGill and Trix stay in a hotel shaped like "the statue of Jesus that stands outside Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Only in this version Jesus was dressed in an Uncle Sam suit." (pp 166-167) Trix, being the deviant subculture obsessed sex-fiend, can't stand the patriotism.

So Mike says: "'Look,' I said. 'You don't get to keep the parts of the country you like, ignore the rest, and call what you've got America. You didn't vote for the president, right?'

"'No.'

"No. I bet [the hotel clerk] did. Half the people in America did. More than half the people in America believe in God. You don't get to ignore that. I know you like telling me about new stuff and showing me that there's a whole other society in America and all that shit. So now I'm showing you: this is what the rest of the people have, okay?'" (pp. 168-169)

And that's the brass ring, folks. It's takes a limey Brit comic book nerd to tell you how your subculture works. And he's fucking right. But shit, before this turns into a literary analysis paper, let me give you fuckers what you really want: There's another part in the book where he's listening to some pirate radio station run by teenagers in Columbus, Ohio that's playing unsigned local community punk bands and gets busted by the FCC on the air and they all get detained as terrorists. You cocksuckers can identify with that, right?

Bottom line: This book is hilarious as fuck, the story is fast and interesting, and it'll make you much, much more open to the idea of sitting on an airplane and talking to a serial killer while you're taking orders from a functioning heroin addict who has commissioned you to find a lost artifact. Or whatever. Just read the book.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
Jason Collett - Here's to Being HereThe Makai - The End of All You KnowPretty Boy Thorson & the Falling Angels - Ain't It FunnyBlonde Redhead - 2331 Knots - The Days and Nights of Everything AnywhereOf Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?The Brokedowns - These Colors Don't Run (The Musical)Joe Lally - There to HereThe Shins - Wincing the Night AwayTin Armor - A Better Place Than I Have Been

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
OctEgon (August 22, 2007)

I bought this book at Comic Con and even got it signed. I've never had such a good time clenching myself.

SilentStorms (August 2, 2007)

Does this sound like Akimbo?

Just joshin'. I am so happy when I see book reviews on this site. Please review more books! Score is for books ... and that's considering cds and movies. Books are the roots of our past. It's just too bad no one reads them anymore. Cuz they're stupid.

Jesse (July 30, 2007)

"i would be asking for reviews of accessible but interesting books debating power and that fit into the ethos of this website"

The ethos of this website? You realize this website solely exists as an excuse to call other Internet nerds "faget" and "dipshit." I'd say this book hits the target audience better.

Dudley_Shale (July 29, 2007)

I'm really excited about this, Fell is an awesome comic.

Totally have a Fell tattoo.

Anonymous (July 29, 2007)

I for one am certainly in the pro-bookreview group. While I'm not saying that this bok shouldn't be one of those reviewed the guy below who, to paraphrase, said something along the lines of 'knowledge is power: arm yourself' is making a good statement but i don't really see how it applies to this book. As cool as stuff like this may be, no matter how readily we who at least like to believe that we are within 'subcultures' may identify with protagonists from last exit to brooklyn and however enjoyable it may be to read these are not the books that provide power.

If i was to have a say i would be asking for reviews of accessible but interesting books debating power and that fit into the ethos of this website. i would be interested to see reviews of books such as 'letters to a christian nation' or the 'god delusion'. Of 'the rebulican war on science' or other political titles. i think the debates and awareness that would arise out of these reviews would vastly surpass a book that just says 'fuck' alot - no matter how well it does it.

p.s. i realise i am not writing these reviews are therefore don't really have a leg to stand on.

Anonymous (July 29, 2007)

aha, that's hilarious because it's the exact same thing he said here in san francisco. they were really great. nick has got the energy of someone half his age, plus i fucking love the grinderman album. also blixa bargeld was in attendance and he came up for the encore and sung the weeping song with nick. he sounded terrible, but it was still great to see him.

Anonymous (July 29, 2007)

Oh man, I just saw Grinderman at the Metro in Chicago a few days ago and it rocked. Nick Cave Warren Ellis, and the 2 others kicked so much ass.

They came out for the encore, and Nick Cave announced: "We don't have anymore Grinderman songs to play, so we are going to play a few Bad Seed songs".

They then proceeded to play 6 Bad Seed songs! It was bad ass.

jamespastepunk (July 29, 2007)

primeevil7 are you retarded?

strike anywhere. right.

actually that artwork comes from a political cartoon by benjamin franklin from about 250 years ago, which depicts the various segments of the snake as the colonies of the then-british-controlled american colonies as a rallying cry against the french, during the french-indian war. the caption for the political cartoon was "Join Or Die!" the colonists were either conscripted by the british to fight for their territory, or imprisoned. either fight for a government that exploits the shit out of you, or face the consequences."


Haha! I love trolling Jesse's reviews.

Anonymous (July 28, 2007)

i was hoping this review was for the warren ellis of the dirty three/nick cave & the bad seeds fame. that guy rules.

i finally got around to reading transmetropolitan and thought it was extremely over-rated.

Anonymous (July 28, 2007)

primeevil7 are you retarded?

Anonymous (July 28, 2007)

I re-read the entire Transmetropolitan series every 6-7 months. Warren Ellis is probably one of the most interesting writers in ANY medium to come along in decades. Thanks more making me aware of this book...it's gonna get purchased today.

-Ken

Anonymous (July 28, 2007)

Score is for Spider Jerusalem.

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

"Artwork reminds me of Strike Anywhere's first EP, and how I haven't listened to it in a while."

strike anywhere. right.

actually that artwork comes from a political cartoon by benjamin franklin from about 250 years ago, which depicts the various segments of the snake as the colonies of the then-british-controlled american colonies as a rallying cry against the french, during the french-indian war. the caption for the political cartoon was "Join Or Die!" the colonists were either conscripted by the british to fight for their territory, or imprisoned. either fight for a government that exploits the shit out of you, or face the consequences.

one could also see it as a double entendre for the mentality of the later-rebelling american colonists, who were fighting against the british. that catch-22 of either siding with the rebels and being branded a terrorist, or disagreeing with the rebels and being branded a british loyalist. the "with us or against us" double entendre of that caption still ring true today.

but yeah. books = punx. that nihilistic "i don't care" bullshit ain't gonna get you far. keeping well-informed and well-read is the only true weapon in our times. to paraphrase Tragedy, "they won't have to burn the books when no one reads them anyway."

more book reviews, i say. actually gives me some motivation to go to the library and check some shit out.

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

I'm sure warren was waiting for the punknews "bump"......

had this preordered with william gibson's new one. looking forward to them.

don't know why this is on this site, thoroughbreds rarely do the quarterhorse races.

wyzo

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

Considering the opening paragraph is coherent, I'm surprised if Ellis is somebody's "Burroughs".

feeeding5000 (July 27, 2007)

I enjoy the barely contained contempt for the readers. I find it refreshing. I might try my hand at reviewing some punk-related book, but, then again, reviewing a book is faaaaaaar more difficult than reviewing a record. A record, you just go, "blah blah melodic hardcore blah blah subtle Lifetime influence." A book, you actually have to, like, deliver a critique of it.
Anyway, this sounds interesting, and, if I ever decide to save some money for books, or ever work up the courage to brave the creepy poor people at the library, I'll check this out. I really enjoy anything relating to the analysis of subcultures, because I guess I fancy myself a member of one. In any case, good job Jesse. This is one of your least irritating and arrogant reviews.

Oh, and who doesn't find Godzilla arousing?

el_matt (July 27, 2007)

NextWave changed my life!

dolorbrigand (July 27, 2007)

Ellis is my Burroughs. fantastic to see this book reviewed here.

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

Call me a cocksucker eh? You don't even know who I am.

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

why call the people who are stupid and bored enough to read your gay review about some gay book 'cocksuckers'. you are a fuckin faggot jesse .. if that is your real name. stick to reviewing indie fag music ya queer

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

books is not punx
JD you are a fucking faggot

jamespastepunk (July 27, 2007)

Artwork reminds me of Strike Anywhere's first EP, and how I haven't listened to it in a while.

Score's for Strike Anywhere.

riversmonkey (July 27, 2007)

I might check this out, at first I thought this book was written by one of The Vandals.

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

are we reviewing books now? because if so I'll go nuts.

- JD

cash_money_hustla (July 27, 2007)

Ohhhhh, time for a PN.org bookclub.

Anonymous (July 27, 2007)

yellowcard?

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