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Literature / Gun Machine

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The Tao of cop shows, man. All those cop shows I grew up with, especially those in the aughties, say the same thing. If you are smart enough, and your Science, with a capital S, is good enough, and if you refuse to give up and just keep using Science on the problem, it’ll crack and you can solve it. And the problem is always the same: the world has stopped making sense, and the cops have to use Science to force it to make sense. That’s the heart of every cop show. Give yourself to a cop show for an hour, and it’ll show you a breakdown in the ethical compact, and the process by which that breakdown occurred, and how it is fixed and made to never happen again. That’s why everyone loves them. They speak to our sense that everything’s fucked and then show you how to work to find out what really happened—simplify the world—and then deal with it.

Warren Ellis' second novel, a Police Procedural involving a Mega-Corp, a private security organization and a good amount of Native American mythology. It is told from the perspective of NYPD Detective John Tallow, who, after losing his partner, discovers a ritualistically decorated room full of guns, each of which can be connected to an unsolved murder — over two hundred of them, some dating more than twenty years back.

The novel is also told from the perspective of The Hunter, the serial killer who created the room. He perceives the world around him... a little bit different than normal people.

A TV series is in development.


This novel provides examples of:

  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Subverted. Scarlatta is married and hits on other women, but only so she can display their phone numbers prominently in her apartment so she and her wife can have angry make-up sex after they're done fighting about it.
  • Amazonian Beauty: Scarly's wife Talia, described by Bat as a "Scandinavian Amazon who can crush rocks with her boobs."
  • Author Appeal: All the corrupt mega-corporations, New Media and cutting-edge technology one would expect from an Ellis story.
  • Ax-Crazy: The Hunter.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: John Tallow. He's clearly intelligent, with an interest in history and culture, a gifted investigative mind and the ability to make connections that no one else seems to see. He just isn't given a reason to care until they start work on the case.
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  • Bullying a Dragon: The three men who employ The Hunter try this when it becomes clear he won't stop his killings. It doesn't work
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Bat and Scarlatta, the two CSUs, who spend most of the book in a dysfunctional frenzy. When they actually have to do work, though, they're easily two of the best techs in the department.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Fuck You Robot.
  • Cool Guns: The Spearpoint mooks carry custom made pistols. Also, the 19th century flintlock. No while the books is called The Gun Machine, there are no machine guns.
  • The Conspiracy: A small one.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Andrew Machen
  • Crapsack World: Though Bat takes a dig at Ellis' fondness for the trope.
    Bat: It's just a river of 'Hey, this crazy disgusting thing just happened, and hey, here's another one, and another, and another, has your brain caught fire yet?' It's like disaster porn or something.
    • Most of the downtime in the story has Tallow either witnessing horrific, if incidental, acts or hearing about them on the police radio.
  • Deal with the Devil: Between Andrew Machen, Jason Westover, Al Turkel and the Hunter.
  • Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: Scarly shouts that she's autistic whenever she abuses Bat. She's not and they both know it. Also counts as a Running Gag.
  • Eye Scream: The hunter kills one mook by stabbing him in the eye with a large knife. Disturbingly it takes 15 seconds for him to die.
  • Infant Immortality: Horrifically averted.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Tallow, Scarly and Bat become friends through the crisis.
  • Food Porn: Dinner at Scarly's will make you want steak sandwiches.
  • Karma Houdini: Machen escapes to Mexico with a bunch of his company's money.
  • Knife Nut: Although the hunter prefers guns, he won't shy away from using his knives.
  • Kick the Dog: While the hunter isn't trying to specifically cause as much pain as possible when he kills, he doesn't go out of his way to end their agony quickly either.
  • Magical Native American: Deconstructed. The Hunter draws his M.O. from Native American ritual and lives In Harmony with Nature, but he's completely nuts and isn't even Native American.
  • Murder-Suicide: Jason and Emily Westover in the end.
  • No Name Given: The real name of The Hunter is never revealed.
  • Real After All: The chapters from The Hunter's POW makes it ambiguous exactly who or what he is and giving the book a distinct Urban Fantasy edge, until Tallow's investigations catch up and reveal him as a delusional psychotic who is simply imagining old Manhattan.
  • Pet the Dog: After his partner was killed, Tallow tries to do these a few times to come out of his shell when he realized exactly how withdrawn from the world he's been.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The two Spearpoint employees who come to process the weapons in the apartment would probably be quite upset if they knew they were actually being used to get rid of the evidence. and that their boss viewed them as expendable.
  • Psycho for Hire: Although in his eyes, the hunter would dispute that he was the one that was hired
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Hunter gives one to his "employers" when they confront him.
    • Bat gives one about the entire NYPD when he explains to Tallow why he prefers to introduce himself as a 'CSU' rather than as a cop.
    Bat: I don’t even tell people I’m a cop. I tell people I’m a CSU.
    Tallow: Same thing.
    Bat: You know what? No offense, but I don’t want them to be the same thing. I’m a CSU. I solve things. I hunt and build and solve things with science. You know what a New York City cop does? Beats protesters. Rapes women.
    Tallow: Hey.
    Bat: You can’t argue that, John. Remember that detective who raped that woman in the doorway of her apartment building in the Bronx? Remember what she said he said to her? ‘I’m not as bad as those other cops who raped that other girl.’ Remember how bad Occupy Wall Street got? Penning women up and then pepper-spraying them? Beating journalists with batons? Cracking the skull of a councilman? Dragging women out of wheelchairs? That’s what a New York City cop is. We’re not fucking heroes. So, yeah, I don’t tell people I’m a cop. I don’t like going out into the field. I like it on my floor of One PP, where we do science and just solve stuff without ever having to go outside and punch someone in the face for being in an inconvenient place and talking the shit that we so richly deserve—
  • Room Full of Crazy: The Hunter's room full of guns.
  • Serial Killer: The Hunter is possibly the most prolific ever, with over two hundred deaths to his name.
  • Shout-Out: To The Wire, during an online chat between Machen and Westover.
    D WESTO 911: clean phone? what am i stringer fucking bell?
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: This is a Warren Ellis novel, so practically everyone swears every other fucking word.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In one of his last POV chapters, the Hunter becomes incredibly depressed (and cries histerically) over the fact he's an outcast from modern age and a self-destructive madman. The chapter shows how he seems regretful of what he became to some extent, though he quickly brushes these thoughts off and returns to the killing. It's probably the only humanizing moment he has in the entire book.
  • Taking the Bullet: Figuratively. The captain of the 1st Precinct sacrifices his retirement fund and what's left of his career to give Tallow, Scarly and Bat one more day to solve the case.
  • The Hermit: Tallow was the more benevolent type. Up until the start of the story, he apparently spent the vast majority of his free-time by himself. He considered his former partner of years to be his best friend, yet never tried to meet his wife or family. Eating dinner at Scarly's was part of his Character Development when he realized his shunning of the world might actually indicate he is somewhat crazy.
  • The Unreveal: The Hunter's name is known by the characters, but never to the audience.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The hunter just isn't a nice person.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Bat
    Bat: Hey. Parents in the eighties. What're you going to do?
  • Your Head Asplode: Tallow's partner.


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