THE AUTOMATIC DETECTIVE by A. Lee Martinez
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A. Lee Martinez has got one of the most violently twisted senses of humor I’ve ever seen. He takes a lot of chances with his writing, and with his fans, because he never seems to write the same book twice. He builds his audience through sheer narrative drive and pacing, and he takes his readers on macabre trips and sidereal reality.
The first book I’ve read of his was Gil’s All Fright Diner, a novel about two aging backwoods friends who happen to be a vampire and a werewolf and who end up saving the world from a zombie apocalypse (among other things). I turned every page in disbelief, but I kept turning pages.
Now he’s written The Automatic Detective, and it’s a brilliant, fun mash-up of 1950s science fiction and private eye pulp. Max Megaton was originally created to destroy the world, but the mad scientist that created him didn’t get to finish the job, so Max was left in limbo.
Since the job of destroying the world wasn’t really allowed, Max ends up becoming a cab driver and working with a talking gorilla named Yung. Max is also in therapy sessions to become a for-real citizen of Empire City, also known as Tomorrow’s Town.
Martinez’s imagination runs rampant through this novel. There are flying cars, weird robots, mutants, and mayhem. In short, he’s written a classic science fiction serial complete with all the science fiction tropes, and he’s thrown in the private eye tropes for free.
When Max’s next door neighbors go missing in an act of violence and the police don’t seem overly interested in figuring out what happened to them, Max decides he’s gotta be the one who does the finding.
During Max’s search, he runs into plenty of bad guys, including a mutant with an uncanny ability to implant subversive subroutines in Max’s computer tubes, a four-armed thug, and plenty of robots that aren’t quite up to Max’s caliber – and a few that could double as wrecking crews.
And then there’s the femme fatale: Lucia Napier, who is just divine as a foil for Max. She’s got a few new designs in mind for Max, and she’s not a girl who’s used to getting ignored.
I loved this book. It was fun and reminded me a lot of all the old science fiction novels and movies I grew up with as a kid. I only hope that Martinez brings out a new Max Megaton investigation.