Crack Books

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis by Crack Books

An oldie, but goodie:

Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis, Published 24 July 2007 by William Morrow

Crooked Little Vein: A crooked little review
by Laura Roberts

Warren Ellis’s first novel, Crooked Little Vein, is a quick read, but not one I’d recommend while you’re sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Maybe it’s just a personal issue, but I find that while normally I can stomach disgusting details, whenever I’m surrounded by needles, blood and urine samples, and the possibility of flesh-eating bacterial infections (plus the ever-so-reassuring wall-mounted hand sanitizer dispensers around every corner), I get a bit queasy. Thus, I’m not sure whether or not this is a compliment, but Warren Ellis nearly made me puke.

Several times.

The thing about good fiction is that you believe it’s real. The thing about Crooked Little Vein is that it’s based on reality. People really DO get together and inject themselves with saline solution for shits and giggles. People really ARE dumb enough to try injecting their butts with silicone from a tube of caulk. (Seriously, kids, don’t try it at home. Or anywhere.) These things happen every day. America, as observed by the British Ellis, is one twisted place.

Japanese "bagel-heads" inject their foreheads with saline solution. Proof that all I say is true.

Now, I don’t want to give away the ending, but I find that it wrapped things up rather neatly. Even happily, which was kind of odd, given the previous whirlwind of degenerates, perverts and assholes. The main character, Mike, is described as a “shit magnet,” and attracts the kinds of situations most people find comical—but only because they didn’t have to live through them. Mike gets his happy ending, and the reader feels relatively content, but is it really as simple as all that?

Not to nitpick, but this is definitely a comic book writer’s ending. Justice is served, the day is saved, the hero rides off into the
sunset. Mike McGill may not be a superhero, but he’s definitely gotten the superhero treatment in the end. And, to be honest, I feel that that is somehow appropriate. Warren Ellis writes comics, after all. Lots of the scenes in the book feel like they could easily be turned into panels in a graphic novel. The violence is there, but you know the good guys will triumph in the end.

First person narrative tends to do that for you.

We trust that things will always end up “right” when we read books, watch TV, go to the movies, flip through comics. There are rules that aren’t violated. You never see the hero die, unless he’s faking it to come back stronger, better, faster. The bad guys never win, except momentarily while the good guys formulate a plan. The world is essentially good and must be saved. Even when it’s populated primarily by perverts.

Crooked Little Vein’s premise is that there’s a way to “reset” the world, to remove the deviants and return America to its Puritan roots. This is as good a premise as any to set things in motion, and to stand in for the neo-conservatives who think that we ought to return to “family values,” even while they hypocritically hump people who aren’t their wives, inject themselves with drugs and break all of the Ten Commandments in a single night. Ask them to name even one of those commandments and they’ll give you a lot more “um”s and “uhhhh”s than a stuttering teenager caught out past curfew. It seems clear that no one on this earth has the right to get holier-than-thou, because none of us are perfect, and yet the worst of us will push their moral majority to the forefront whenever they can, trying to guilt the rest of us into admitting we are wrong.

Puritanism runs deep, and Ellis is not the first to examine it. He may, however, be the only one who’s used the phrase “tantric sex with ostriches” in the pursuit of its crooked source. Read it and weep, people. Read it and weep.

(Originally, and quite inexplicably, posted at Helium)


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