Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez, Tor/Forge 2008.
If you like detective fiction, sci-fi, and robots, whether together, apart, or in any combination stop reading this review and find a copy of this book.
Mack Megaton is a death dealing robot. At least, he should have been. Instead he developed the free will “glitch.” Now he drives a cab in the “technopia” of Empire City. A tarnished city of technological wonders, or not-quite wonders, full of mutants, robots and you average joes. Mack is just a ‘bot trying to earn his living, that is, until his neighbors go missing and he takes it on himself to find them.
What follows is an almost textbook detective story. A cleverly written, frequently humorous, slightly smirking detective story but familiar none-the-less. While one might want to compare this to the recently reviewed Majestrum I think it is more similar to Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. Both Mack and Kovacs have similar approaches to detective work, leaving a wake of destruction when they pass, but despite his metal body it is Mack that has the lighter touch. Far more humorous than any of Morgan’s work, and lacking the bleak amoral themes present in the Kovacs’ stories, the Automatic Detective, revels in the ridiculousness of its setting and takes both cliches of the sci-fi genre (robots, talking monkeys, and mutants) and detective fiction and, in some strange, glorious combination of the two, makes them feel new again.
Megaton is the robotic heir to Marlowe mixed with the cold reasoning of Sam Spade. Unabashedly pulpy The Automatic Detective is a damned fine read and I can only hope we see more of Megaton and his world in the future. Final Grade: a solid A.
P.S.: If robots aren’t your thing there is a talking gorilla. Bonus!