Killing is My Business by Adam Christopher
Adam Christopher is a prolific and imaginative writer whose novels read like comic books or graphic novels without the pictures. That’s deliberate and it really works.
Killing is My Business is another story about Raymond Electromatic, the last robot.
The technology in this story is a weird 1960’s Asimovian sort of robotics, with computers the size of buildings, spinning magnetic tapes, and rotary dial telephones. Ray is a strange super powered, nearly invulnerable robot with a sophisticated brain but memory limited to the capacity of one 24-hour tape cartridge.
A la 60’s LA Noir, and Ray is licensed PI, but employed as a hired killer. The result is a superpowered robot assassin who can’t remember yesterday, and who has to be briefed each morning to remind him of what’s going on in the case, and who the target for today is.
Given his almost total amnesia, and inhuman mechanical body, he doesn’t fit in sot society especially well. Very Noir, no? And, by the way, he’s the last and only robot still at large. All the others were recalled and destroyed.
Does this all make sense? No.
“SET DISBELIEF = SUSPENDED”
This particular story involves even more mysterious assignment than usual. It becomes clear that his daily briefings are clearly edited, and that he is being manipulated by his programmer (Ada the supercomputer). He is dropped into a dangerous and inexplicable situation, and he struggles to figure out what is going on.
This isn’t the real 1960s, nor even authentic 60s fictional LA. It’s sort of nostalgia for an imaginary nostalgia. Fiction about past fictions. Or something.
I guess it’s kind of fun to try to fathom the weird LA setting and the rather alien people who live there, if you like that sort of thing. There is a lot of pseudo-retro banter, which I guess some people like. Given that the people and their motives are extremely shallow and opaque, I found it hard to be deeply interested in any of them.
Overall, the whole thing works because Christopher writes well. But I have to say that I like his other work better.
- Adam Christopher, Killing is My Business, New York, Tor, 2017.
Sunday Book Reviews