Jonathan Lethem, Gun, with Occasional Music, 1994.
A marvellous science fiction detective noir, Gun, with Occasional Music presents a brilliantly realised but completely accessible dystopian world. Set in a future when it’s impolite and impermissible to ask questions, where babies and animals have been raised to sentience and functionality, where the news is all just music, and in which most citizens are heavy users of a drug called make (blended with various different amounts of Forgettol, Acceptol, Regrettol, and the like), our gumshoe protagonist stumbles into a murder mystery he’d rather not know much about. After all, Metcalf’s got problems of his own—not least of which is that, after swapping physical responses with a female friend for a weekend, she left without returning his … responses. Into his life walks Orton Angwine, a man who will soon go down for the murder of the last client of our “private inquisitor,” a man named Maynard Stanhunt. Events tumble into one another, and Metcalf soon finds himself running afoul of the Office of the inquisitors (and two in particular). Office politics, a confusing family intersection of victim and mob boss, babyheads, talking sheep and a certain nasty kangaroo working as mob muscle all combine to create a memorable read, a well-executed sci-fi noir that needs to be more widely read than it is. I wish I remember who recommended this novel to me, but I find myself reaching out excitedly to read more of Lethem’s work.