Thursday, 13 October 2011

Guest Review: Big Machine

Once again I have Sarah dropping by to review a bizarre sounding book...

Big Machine
- Victor LaValle

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

A fiendishly imaginative comic novel about doubt, faith, and the monsters we carry within us.Ricky Rice was as good as invisible: a middling hustler, recovering dope fiend, and traumatized suicide cult survivor running out the string of his life as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, New York. Until one day a letter appears, summoning him to the frozen woods of Vermont. There, Ricky is inducted into a band of paranormal investigators comprised of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point in their wasted lives heard The Voice: a mysterious murmur on the wind, a disembodied shout, or a whisper in an empty room that may or may not be from God.

Hello Random Reviews readers, me again, and today I'm reviewing Victor LaValle's novel Big Machine.  Now, normally I appear here because I've really enjoyed a book and wanted to share it with you, this time, well, it's for the opposite reason.

I bought this book after reading a good review in SFX magazine, and on paper it sounds intriguing - the protagonist Ricky Rice, a recovering drug addict, receives a mysterious train ticket in the post, and ends up at the Washburn Library with a whole cast of washed-up members of society and nothing but piles of daily newspapers.  From here unravels a plot, that is, frankly, wierd.

I just didn't get this book, not one iota.  Yes, I understood the individual words, but together?  I have a vivid imagination (just ask Mel!) but one cast member developing a limp after two identical bobcats tried to eat his soul out of his right foot - eh???  Throw in often pointless back stories and truly random moments of horror that seem to have no bearing on the plot, and I was all at sea. Whilst the book is obviousy trying to deal with some weighty issues - addiction, suicide cults, racism, redemption - it either does so with the subtlety of a flying sledgehammer, or in such a wierd, convoluted way that I just couldn't get what the author wanted me to think.

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who have enjoyed this book (apparently it was very popular in America), but it really wasn't for me.  A decent premise, and a few illuminating pages right at the end didn't make up for all the rest - 5 out of 10.


  1. ...O_O I am getting a bit confused just hearing you describe this strange book. SO very very strange

  2. No wonder we wear shoes! Soul eating bobcats! O.o

    Sorry it didn't work for you. I like strange, but it still has to make sense. :)

  3. So sorry to hear you didn't get this book at all. I've read a book or two like that and just don't get it. But, thank youfor the honest review!

  4. I like random as much as the next person, but "eh?" is right! If it is very popular in America, how come I haven't heard of it before? Probably because I've never been one to follow the popular crowd. LOL