Et Cetera

The Words & Writings of Sean Richmond

The Automatic Detective: Review


This is what I've been looking for. Good pulpy detective fiction with a main character who's a robot built to take over the world and his pal a talking Gorilla? How the hell could I not love this?

The Automatic Detective follows the story of our hero, Mack Megaton (again, look at this name! Genius!), an eight-foot tall sapient robot who has developed a glitch in his programming, and instead of taking over the world for his creator, the evil and insane Professor Megalith, he rebelled, and applied for citizenship in the home of the weird, Empire City.

Empire City is every 1950s futurist's dream come to life. Cars are no more, replaced with helo-cars, walking cars, jumping cars, basically you name a method of locomotion that doesn't evolve four-wheeled travel then Empire City uses it. Science reigns supreme, with the Learned Council overseeing the regulation of it and the rest of the laws in the city. Weird science abounds, radiation is so prevalent that mutations are just something you deal with, and robots are a part of everyday life.

Which is why Mack wants to make an honest go of it. So the Council gives him the benefit of the doubt, and he is put on close watch until he demonstrates that he's not going to go crazy and try to bring mankind to its knees. So he gets a job to pay for his electric bill as a taxi driver, and every day he goes next door to his neighbor's apartment so they can tie his bowtie for him (which is apparently something he wasn't really designed for).

Which is when things get messy. The family is kidnapped, and he's taken it upon himself to find them no matter the cost.

This book is pretty fantastic. It has all the conventions of classic noir-detective stories, with a femme fatale, mouthy sidekick, and hero-detective with a devil may care attitude and nothing left to lose. Martinez even nails the style:

She had long legs that went on forever, circling the curve of space and meeting themselves back at the end of eternity. And her face: it belonged in movies. Monster movies. The kind where some thing with six eyes and a lamprey mouth sucks teenagers' brains.

A. Lee Martinez did a really great job with the story, crafting a mystery that kept you wondering but was also fast paced and filled with robot-pounding-action, The Automatic Detective is an instant recommendation for anyone who thinks that Dashiell Hammet, Terry Pratchett and Isaac Asimov could combine to form some sort of Voltron-esque story of pulpy fun and just pure awesomeness.

My only complaint with the book is that it's perfectly set up for a sequel, or even a series, but so far there has been no word of any. Please, Mr. Martinez, please return to the world of Mac Megaton and Empire City and show us what happens next. I'd be forever in your debt.

Rating: 9/10