Review - Crooked Little Vein – Warren Ellis


Burned-out private detective and self-styled sh*t magnet Michael McGill needed a wake-up call to jump-start his dead career. What he got was a virtual cattle prod to the crotch, in the form of an impossible assignment delivered directly from the president's heroin-addict chief of staff. It seems the Constitution of the United States has some skeletons in its closet: the Founding Fathers doubted that the document would be able to stave off human nature indefinitely, so they devised a backup Constitution to deploy at the first sign of crisis. In the government's eyes, that time is now, as America is overgrown with perverts who spend more time surfing the Web for fetish porn than they do reading a newspaper. They want to use this "Secret Constitution" to drive the country back to a time when civility, God, and mom's homemade apple pie were all that mattered.
The only problem is, no one can seem to find it . . .
So who better to track it down than a private dick who's so down-and-out that he's coming up the other side, a shamus whose only skill is stumbling into every depraved situation imaginable?
With no lead to speak of, and no knowledge of the underground world in which the Constitution has traveled, McGill embarks on a cross-country odyssey of America's darkest, dankest underbelly. Along the way, his white-bread sensibilities are treated to a smorgasbord of depravity that runs the gamut of human imagination. The filth mounts; it is clear that this isn't the kind of life, liberty, or happiness that Thomas Jefferson thought Americans would enjoy in the twenty-first century.
But what McGill learns as he closes in on the real Constitution is that freedom takes many forms, the most important of which may be the fight against the "good old days." Like Vonnegut, Orwell, and Huxley before him, Warren Ellis deftly exposes the hypocrisy of the "moral majority" by giving us a glimpse at the monstrous outcome that their overzealous policies would achieve.

Book Review Questionnaire (courtesy of Hidden Side Of A Leaf)

What led you to pick up this book?

Crooked Little Vein was included at my library in a local feature where library workers choose their favourite titles. I had seen this featured on many lists so I decided to check it out.

What did you like most about the book?

This book is filled with lewd people, disgusting sexual practices and disturbing perversions ... that all are probably pretty easy to find in our society, which is even more shocking. But the thing that I liked is how Ellis managed to place these things into everyday life and find the humour behind it. Because every once in awhile, amidst the daily horrors we see on CNN and local news, you've got to just take a breath and laugh.

What did you like least?

It was way too short - I am hoping that we will see McGill return in a sequel. He would make the perfect main character for a detective series.

What did you think of the writing style?

I loved the style of writing in Crooked Little Vein. It was rough, blunt and to the point, which was perfect for the story. The pacing was also a key ingredient, as it pulls the reader along on the speeding fast journey of the main character. 

Which readers are most likely to enjoy this book? Why?

This would be easier if I said who I don't think would enjoy this book. If you are not interested in graphic descriptions of sex, profanity, insanity or a negative view of American politics - you should probably stay away. Also if you don't want to read about Godzilla Bukkake or you are scared to find out what that is - you should probably read something else.

Have you read any other books by this author? What did you think of those books?

Warren Ellis is an amazing comic book/graphic novel author and I have enjoyed his Transmetropolitan series and his various contributions to the X-Men comics. Crooked Little Vein is my first read of his novels, but I will be looking forward to more,

What did you think of the main character?

I adored the main character, private detective Michael McGill. He is the type of guy that knows his life sucks, his luck sucks and whatever bad things can happen - will happen. But he takes it all in stride and doesn't give up, he just shrugs it off with dark humour and a "what did I expect?" attitude.

Any other particularly interesting characters?

His partner Trix, is very likable, if weird. Also the many people he meets on his journey are incredibly interesting, although even weirder. The saline-addicted body builders were hilarious as was the serial killer, who I would love to hear more about.

Write about the relationship between two characters.

Michael and Trix decide to join together as partners, along the way their relationship changes many times, but the chemistry between them, whether romantic or otherwise, is always very strong. I really enjoyed seeing how each experience they had together changed them as people.

Share a quote from the book:

This quote is a description that was given about the specific book that Michael McGill was hired to find. I laughed so much after reading this.
“It is a small, handwritten volume reputedly bound in the skin of the extraterrestrial entity that plagued Benjamin Franklin’s ass over 6 nights in Paris during his European travels. Benjamin Franklin wasn’t some nancy-boy novelist who wrote sensitive books about aliens sticking things up his rectum, you know. On the seventh night he got right up and killed the little bastard with one punch”

Share a favourite scene from the book:

My favourite scene from Crooked Little Vein is when Michael and Trix meet with the bodybuilders to find a lead. Normally a detective needs to exchange something for information, but this time he is forced to accept something if he plans to get the information he wants. What he gets and how he gets it are achingly funny. What's more hilarious about this particular scene is how he reacts afterwards while running (make that shuffling) to his car.

Do you recommend this book? If you use a rating system, what’s your rating?

I would recommend this book as it was a very enjoyable, fun read. But again, I must say it is not a read for the sensitive or easily offended. If you aren't put off by Chuck Palahniuk or if you enjoy his shocking satire, then you'll probably also enjoy Crooked Little Vein. Below all of the shocking images and descriptions there is a very strong message about how our society has changed (for better or for worse?) and where the lines need to be drawn in order for humanity to remain human.

About The Author

Warren Ellis has worked for Marvel Comics on X-Men, for DC/WildStorm on The Authority, Transmetropolitan and the award-winning Planetary, and on an array of other titles, including Ministry of Space, and the forthcoming Global Frequency and Orbiter.

Author Website

Published by Harper Collins Canada

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Icedream said...

Thanks so much for posting a review of Crooked Little Vein. It's a title that I would kept hearing but didn't have a clue what it was about. You both did a great job and it's a book I will be addding to my TBR list.

Lightheaded said...

Goodness, I want this book :)

Nymeth said...

I want this book too. I've been curious about it for a while now, so it's great to get more info on it. Thank you for the great interview!

Book Zombie said...

I'm so happy to see so much interest in Crooked Little Vein, it's really a fun read - but just so everyone knows, this wasn't an actual interview. Dewey at Hidden Side Of A Leaf posted a list of questions to use when doing a review. Since I had a hard time writing a proper review for this I decided to use Dewey's question list.

Stephanie said...

I got a chance to review this book before it was released. Man...I loved this book!!