Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez

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I have a huge crush on Mack Megaton, a seven-foot tall robot with a free will glitch who becomes a reluctant detective and refers to humans as “squishy biologicals.” Mack is the main character in the wittiest book I’ve read this year, and possibly the best book I’ve read since The Help, which is saying a lot since The Help is a literary blockbuster and The Automatic Detective is sci-fi pulp fiction.

Apparently this theme isn’t original, i.e., Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel, and I-Robot among others, but it’s new to me, and I loved it! Just imagine a hard-boiled Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler detective mystery, set in a bizarre retro near-future full of mutants, aliens from an undisclosed universe, and robots. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it does in the book. I wouldn’t have picked this book if I’d known what it was about, but people were raving about it so I decided to give it a try, and I’m glad I did.

Mack Megaton, seeking a more human existence and citizenship in a world oozing biological nastiness and mutant creatures, gets dragged into the rescue of a human family of friends who have been kidnapped in a bizarre conspiracy. Forget about that though as the story is secondary to the hilarious dialogue and whacky characters. I loved Jung, Mack’s sidekick, a gorilla-like human who loves to read Jane Austen. And get this, Mack is all man, but he’s not sexual. There are sexy women characters and seductions, but there is no sex, zero, zip, nada.

The plot of The Automatic Detective is twisty and satisfying, and the first-person narrative is crammed full of terrifically clever wisecracks, as well as some seriously smart insights. I listened to the audio version and the voices were just as fun as the writing. There were a couple of sections that lost me with repetitious and over-the-top plot lines, but it didn’t take much for author A. Lee Martinez and Mack Megaton to lure me back in. 

Speaking of A. Lee Martinez, he’s an El Paso boy, and I love that too because this book is going to be wildly popular and go on to become a fabulously fun movie!

Step out of your book genre comfort zone and read The Automatic Detective. You’ll thank me later.

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