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BOOK REVIEW:

Made to kill

Raymond Chandler HATED science fiction and he made no bones about it. In a letter to his editor written in 1953, while working on what would ultimately be his last novel, Chandler wrote this:

"Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It's a scream. It is written like this: 'I checked out with K19 on Aldabaran III, and stepped out through the crummalite hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Brylls ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was icecold against the rust-colored mountains. The Brylls shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn't enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn't enough. He was right.' They pay brisk money for this crap?"

The idea that Chandler might have tackled a science fiction story is an intriguing one, and was the necessary inspiration for Adam Christopher, author of The Empire state, The Age Atomic, Seven Wonders and the Spider War series, to embark on a new series, The L.A. Trilogy, with the first installment, Made to kill.  Raymond Electromatic is the last robot in the world. The first of a new model whose production was started just as the general public was throwing all of the other robots into a dustbin, Ray is the only one completed. He and Ada, his partner and office support (think of a racier super-computer Effie Perine and you’ve got her!), came up with a plan to ensure their continued existence: open the Electromatic Detective Agency. Business has been good, especially since Ada convinced Ray to take on side jobs rubbing people out for a price.  And Ray is so good at his job. He is relentless, can see better than his human counterparts, is nearly impervious to conventional weapons and is perfect for stakeouts because he has no need to eat, drink or sleep and can sit or stand for hours at a time! Of course there are some limitations because his batteries are good for only 12-18 hours, and his memory is good for only 24 hours. Every night, Ray has to return to the office to plug in and get backed up, which results in him remembering only the parts of the previous day on which Ada fills him in. It’s not an ideal situation, but they make it work.

Ray knew the new gig was a mistake from the moment the young woman entered his office carrying a bag of gold bars. She wanted to hire Ray to find a missing movie star. However, Ada would not pass up the gold for such a simple job and convinced him to take it. Where was the harm? Ray takes the job, finds the actor and they get to keep an insane payment. If things went wrong, he would probably have to kill both the woman and the actor, and they would still get to keep the gold. What neither Ray nor Ada counted on was where the trail of the missing actor would lead them:  into the midst of a sinister plot that reaches from the highest studio offices down to secret meetings in unknown basements. And Ray is about to find out just how far his limits he can be pushed.

In Made to kill, Adam Christopher seamlessly blends the trappings of both Sci-Fi and Mystery pulps into a page turning robotic-noir story. Christopher does a notable job imitating some of Chandler’s style and has worked it into a story that will please and entertain readers (but probably would not have pleased Mr. Chandler). There are no release dates for the subsequent titles in the series.

In the meantime, readers who enjoy Made to kill should look also read “Brisk Money” a short story on Tor.com that is a prequel to the novel. Readers may also enjoy Christopher’s The Empire State and The Age Atomic. Both of these novels are also genre bending/blending novels, with elements of SF, Noir and Superhero elements, and are great fun reads.

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