I’m thrilled to be part of Tor Books’ blog tour for Made to Kill, a highly original and laugh-out-loud funny story about the glitz (and the seedy underbelly) of Hollywood, as seen through the eyes of a detective/hit man robot named Ray Electromatic.
Made to Kill (The L.A. Trilogy, Book 1) by Adam Christopher
On sale: November 3 2015
Published by Tor Books
Hardcover: $ 24.99, 240 pages
As I walked down the block toward the Temple I contemplated my plan to get in. As plans went it was pretty simple: I was going to walk up to the door and see what happened.
It was a plan, I had to admit, largely dependent on how well disposed the man on the door felt about the fact my face was made of metal.
There’s nothing more fun in speculative fiction, in my opinion, than when authors decide to blend genres, and Made to Kill is a great example of this creative mash-up. Veteran author Christopher has taken his love of detective fiction—in particular that of Raymond Chandler—and asked the question: If Raymond Chandler had written a science fiction novel, what kind of story would it be? His answer to that question is Made to Kill, a tale about “the last robot on Earth” who just happens to be a detective/hit man working for a computer named Ada. Christopher takes all the elements that make detective fiction memorable—the snappy (and sometimes cheesy) dialog, dramatic twists and turns, and even a femme fatale—and combines them with a decidedly low-tech science fiction story (you won’t see any cell phones in this book—Ray must look for a payphone every time he needs to call the office). The result is a funny, nostalgic and ultimately absurd peek into the lives of Hollywood’s elite—the actors that appear on the silver screen.
The premise is fairly cut-and-dry: Ray Electromatic, the aforementioned last robot on Earth, works under the guise of detective, in order to cover up the fact that he’s actually a hit man. A delightfully smart-mouthed computer named Ada secures the jobs, and Ray carries them out. Ada’s been programmed to turn a profit, and because there’s very little of that in detective work, she and Ray have turned to killing people for cash. One day, a mysterious and beautiful woman walks into Ray’s office and asks him to find a missing movie star named Charles David, and she’s got a bag full of gold to pay for his services. Despite Ada’s reservations, Ray agrees to take the job, and before you know it, he’s knee-deep in Hollywood politics, missing movie stars, and a sinister plot to take over the world. Can Ray solve the mystery of who’s behind it all before it’s too late? Well, you’ll just have to read the book and see for yourself!
Made to Kill is set in 1965 Los Angeles, and if you can image it, Ray is a 1960s version of the robot, slightly clunky and a far cry from movie robots today. He’s completely made of metal with unmovable features, which makes it even funnier when his internal narrative tells us that he’s raising his eyebrows or smiling (neither of which he can do). He’s also got a built-in Geiger counter, and when you read the story you’ll understand why. And despite the fact that Ray is made of metal, he’s got some surprisingly (and endearing) human traits, like the jaunty detective hat he insists on wearing, à la Sam Spade.
Ray and Ada were the best part of this story, and I loved their odd relationship. Neither one works without the other: Ray needs Ada to give him his next job and to insert a new memory tape every day (which was one of my favorite touches—because of this limitation, Ray starts each day fresh, not remembering what happened the previous day). Ada needs Ray to carry out the assignments that she finds. Ada doesn’t have a body, but she’s one of the most fleshed-out characters I’ve come across lately (cue groaning!). Despite her lack of physical presence, Ada keeps up the appearance of a secretary by making the appropriate noises: heels walking across the floor, a match being struck and a cigarette being smoked, or a creaky chair swiveling around. There were so many sweet moments between them, in addition to the laugh-out-loud ones, and I’m very happy that this is only the first in a trilogy.
The story centers around the premiere of a star-studded movie called Red Lucky, whose opening night will be beamed into theatres all over the country. It doesn’t take Ray long to figure out that whatever plot is afoot is going to take place at the premiere. Ray follows clues to several real Los Angeles locations, including the infamous Hollywood sign, perched on the hills above the city. Christopher takes some artistic license with the details, but many of those scenes were entirely believable, like the ones where Ray manages to get past security to look for something that’s supposed to be hidden at the base of the larger-than-life letters. I imagine the author had a blast doing research for this book, and from the detail he puts into Ray’s adventures on the hillside, he probably visited the sign himself.
The story takes a crazy turn when Ray finally connects all the dots and realizes just what’s going on, and from that point on it’s a wild ride full of conspiracies, Russian operatives, and Ray’s determination to, literally, save the world. One thing’s for sure: you’ll never be bored reading Made to Kill! When I thought things couldn’t get any crazier, Christopher proved me wrong and ramped things up even more. The story ends on an unexpectedly sentimental note, which I thought was a nice touch, and made me remember that in the midst of all the action, it’s Ray and Ada who steal the show.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
ADAM CHRISTOPHER is a novelist and comic writer. In 2010, as an editor, Christopher won a Sir Julius Vogel award, New Zealand’s highest science fiction honor. His debut novel, Empire State, was SciFiNow’s Book of the Year and a Financial Times Book of the Year for 2012. In 2013 he was nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best New Talent, with Empire State shortlisted for Best Novel. Christopher is currently co-authoring The Shield comic with Chuck Wendig, available from Dark Circle Comics October 20, 2015. Born in New Zealand, he has lived in Great Britain since 2006.