A Novel Review: Made to Kill

January 26, 2016 Author: Jon Johnson (Sir)


It isn’t often that a book catches me with its cover, but Adam Christopher’s Made to Kill did just that. Two dimensional art deco of a robot in a trenchcoat and fedora? You better believe I’d check that out. Published by Tor Books late last year, Made to Kill tells the story of Raymond Electromatic, the last robot left active in 1965 Hollywood. Raymond is a private detective, but limited by battery life and memory tapes. As such, he’s usually hired out to perform more aggressive tasks, such as assassinations. Raymond can access previous days recordings through his overseer, the computer bank called Ada, who filters it to only the tiniest bits. Raymond knows his inner workings, knows his limitations and knows to trust in Ada, who seems to be more than just his overseer. It’s all fairly well explained up front in this sci-fi alternate history-slash-noir mystery of contract killings, detective work and clandestine agencies.

Similar to older publishing styles, Made to Kill is just under 250 pages, and is peppered with short, staccato sentences. It’s meant to give the impression of a Raymond Chandler story, complete with a trenchcoat wearing detective, detailed scenery of Los Angeles and murder.

It’s pretty good. I like the retro sci-fi feel of it, with a little alternate history thrown in the mix. It has similarities to an old DC Comics story, “Robot for Hire”, which ran in the Tales of the Unexpected series in the 60’s. In fact, it might be some sort of strange homage to that as much as Chandler. As Adam Christopher is a comic book writer presently, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he was a fan of that obscure tale.

Made to Kill is meant to be the first of a trilogy, though you can read this one book without concern for more. It concludes as well as any Chandler story, without a cliffhanger or upbeat prospects; it ends with all the knots undone and the characters returning to their everyday lives. In that, it’s not a remarkably new or inspiring book, but it’s a fun read nonetheless. Check it out, if for nothing else than the retro feel of it alone.

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