Reviews > Published on November 2nd, 2015

Bookshots: 'Made to Kill' by Adam Christopher

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


Made to Kill

Who wrote it?

Raymond Electromatic is easily my new favorite hard-boiled detective.

Adam Christopher, author of the Empire State series.

Plot in a Box:

A robot private eye turned private hitman gets hired by a leggy dame with a bag full of gold to bump off one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, but of course, not everything is as it seems.

Invent a new title for this book:

The Steel Gumshoe vs. The Rad Menace!

Read this if you like:

Raymond Chandler, Atompunk

Meet the books lead(s):

Raymond Electromatic, the world’s last robot. A detective with a memory tape only 24 hours long, tough times have forced Ray and his supercomputer boss, Ada, to expand his functionality to include human deletion. It certainly pays better than being a private eye, and Ray’s limited recall eliminates any guilt.

Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:

Ray would no doubt be portrayed by some wonder of VFX, voiced by John DiMaggio of Futurama fame.

Setting: Would you want to live there?

LA is a beautiful city with loads of ugly concealed just barely beneath the surface. A great place to be a detective or a movie star, but not much else.

What was your favorite sentence?

It was a sports bag, an arch of warm brown leather that curved up nearly to her knees, the kind of expensive but well-made bag that you’d take to a fancy athletics club where the sweat you got on was from the sauna and rather than play squash you’d sit in easy chairs as soft as warm butter and blow bubbles and talk about exotic sports that had accents over the letters.

The Verdict:

While Made to Kill is a very fun read, it withers under close examination. The pretense of being a lost sci-fi story from Raymond Chandler, who famously detested the genre, is an interesting one, and accurate considering the sci-fi trappings don’t really come into play until the very end of the book. Then it piles them on pretty thick, as if compensating for the preceding dearth. Ray Electromatic is the last robot, after the robo-industrial revolution of the ‘50s failed, leaving almost no visible mark on the world other than Ray himself. So rather than exploring the intricacies of an alternate universe (like Christopher’s previous Empire State novels), the story is basically about a superpowered Philip Marlowe solving another enigmatic LA mystery that only gets truly weird in its final chapters. Ray’s limited memory capacity is an intriguing wrinkle for a detective story (a la Memento), but it is never used in any meaningful way. Despite the title, Ray is only directly responsible for one death in the course of the novel, and few words are spent examining his transition from private eye to hired killer, which seems odd since he clearly has his own mind and feelings. It’s also a bit far-fetched, even for this world, that the government, which sponsored the program that created Ray, would allow a perfect killing machine to continue to operate independently. Although I enjoyed my time with Made to Kill, when I closed the book I couldn’t help feeling like it hadn’t lived up to its immense potential. Hopefully the next book in the series will capitalize on it, because Raymond Electromatic is easily my new favorite hard-boiled detective.

About the author

BH Shepherd is a writer and a DJ from Texas. He graduated from Skidmore College in 2005 with degrees in English and Demonology after writing a thesis about Doctor Doom. A hardcore sci-fi geek, noir junkie and comic book prophet, BH Shepherd has spent a lot of time studying things that don’t exist.  He currently resides in Austin, where he is working on The Greatest Novel Ever.

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