two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
By: 
Warren Ellis
user_rating: 
0

A-Crooked Little VeinTo say that detective Mike McGill is down on his luck would be an understatement. In the opening scene of Crooked Little Vein, a rat urinates in his coffee, and when the president’s heroin-addicted chief of staff offers him a tidy sum to track down an alternative "Secret Constitution," one that would ensure a moral shift in an America gone to seed, things are only bound to get worse. With the help of Trix, his polyamorous assistant, McGill sets off on a sadomasochistic sexual tour of the country’s underbelly, witnessing acts of perversion that offend even the hardcore sensibility of a man who thought he had seen it all. So what will McGill do when he gets a chance to set things right?
HarperCollins. 276 pages. $21.95. ISBN: 0060723939

Chicago Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The debut novel from prolific British graphic novelist Warren Ellis … is one of those divisive works that readers will either throw down in disgust or embrace as a triumphant—albeit twisted—hard-boiled treasure. … Whether Ellis is a perverted madman or a literary genius, Crooked Little Vein … is a book readers will not soon forget." Paul Goat Allen

Los Angeles Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"While Crooked Little Vein never ceases to entertain, it takes few chances, which sadly makes it maddeningly canonical in places. Still, Ellis is a formidable talent whose wit and insight fit perfectly into the crime genre." Tod Goldberg

San Francisco Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"It’s not at all clear that Ellis’ undeniable talent is suited to the novel. Like his iconoclastic superhero saga The Authority, Crooked Little Vein is often good, profane fun, but many readers are going to be disappointed by its disjointed, slapdash approach." Michael Berry

Toronto Star 2 of 5 Stars
"Ellis’s style, such as it is, consists of scenes paced at an Attention Deficit Disorder pace, in which grotesquely parodied character types—politicians, cops, serial killers—riff wisely on everything from pop culture to politics to the Internet and sexual deviancy. … The problem seems to be that Ellis wants to weigh down his picaresque story with a moral and socio-political message about the importance of personal responsibility and choice—which is fine, but he hasn’t the patience to dramatize the message on the page." James Grainger

Critical Summary

Warren Ellis is best known for his many comic books and graphic novels (among them, Transmetropolitan, The Authority, Fell, and Desolation Jones), as well as television and video game scripts. While some of the plots in his graphic novels can be unceasingly dark, Crooked Little Vein, Ellis’s first prose novel, comes across as an absurdist catalog of fetish porn and depravity and a tongue-in-cheek examination of morality and hypocrisy in an Internet culture. Fans of Ellis’s previous work will warm to the subject immediately, recognizing both the author’s own peculiar genius and his debt to Raymond Chandler, Chuck Palahniuk, and William S. Burroughs. This book’s not for everyone, though, and few readers will be ambivalent about it when they’ve finished.