Review: Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis (2007)

Crooked Little Vein Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
Publication: William Morrow (2007), Hardcover, 288 pages / ISBN 0060723939
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
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Challenge: Read Your Own Books 2009 (#3)

Summary from Amazon:

Michael McGill is a burned-out private detective who suddenly becomes enlisted by an army of presidential goons to retrieve the Constitution of the United States, but not the one we all know about. This would be the real Constitution (the one with invisible amendments) created by some of the Founding Fathers as a fallback for their great experiment. Along the way, McGill gains a polyamorous sidekick named Trix, gets scared to death by what men do with warm salty water, and descends into a world where crime, sex, and madness all seem to be the same thing.

Oh, it’s worse than that. Crooked Little Vein is about the underground going mainstream. It’s about the outside coming in. It’s about Godzilla bukkake porn.

Well, maybe not just about Godzilla bukkake porn, but porn is a part of it. The weird parts that make up America is a part of it. This quote pretty much explains the whole book:

“You don’t just get to keep the parts of the country you like, ignore the rest, and call what you’ve got America.”

You’ve got to accept all of it, even the stuff that grosses you out. Anyway, besides the porn stuff (which does play a big part in the book, by the way. You can’t just skip it and still expect to understand what happens.), there’s the standard awesomely weird Ellis characters, including the surprisingly sweet male narrator and the dirty, corrupt government officials. All his characters are a little cynical (sometimes a lot cynical), but they’ve still got edges of kindness and hopeful optimism to them that keep me from hating everyone in the story. The sex scenes aren’t explicit, actually, but I’m not sure how much of a comfort that might be after running into the Godzilla porn-lovers.

Ellis’ America– minus the porn antics– is an America high on cremated dog turds: a little weirder, a little more prone to crazy, but still resonating slightly with “omg this could be real.” Take the crazy taxi drivers, for instance, that drive Michael around. I’m sure there are plenty of normal taxi drivers out there, but in CLV all the crazy ones came out and pissed all over it. I don’t think there was one non-crazy taxi driver in the book, and that’s because Warren Ellis’ America is populated by the ones who carve X’s in their foreheads. Wonderful, isn’t it?

Besides all that, Crooked Little Vein is well written, with an exciting ending action sequence, romance, and a lot of dark humor. I liked it, but I was already a Warren Ellis fan beforehand, so I’m not entirely sure how non-Ellis fans would read it. Punk kids might like it, actually, but I’m still not sure if they’d like it as much if they had read something else of his beforehand.

I would recommend, if you haven’t read any Ellis stuff, to start with something like Transmetropolitan or Fell. They’re really excellent comics, with pretty art and fantastic writing. (Transmet is my favorite Ellis creation ever, and I reread it every year.)

Though I suppose if you’re into Godzilla bukkake porn, you could just…dive right in.

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