A fiendishly imaginative comic novel about doubt, faith, and the monsters we carry within us.
Ricky Rice was as good as invisible: a middling hustler, recovering dope fiend, and traumatized cult survivor running out the string of his life as a porter at a bus depot in Utica, New York. Until one day a letter appears, summoning him to the frozen woods of Vermont. There, Ricky is inducted into a band of paranormal investigators comprised of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point in their wasted lives heard The Voice: a mysterious murmur on the wind, a disembodied shout, or a whisper in an empty room that may or may not be from God.
Evoking the disorienting wonder of writers like Haruki Murakami and Kevin Brockmeier, but driven by Victor LaValles perfectly pitched comic sensibility Big Machine is a mind-rattling literary adventure about sex, race, and the eternal struggle between faith and doubt.
While Big Machine contains encounters with the sorts of angels and demons that skeptical readers might think belong more in a Dan Brown thriller than a literary novel, these supernatural elements expertly rub shoulders with realistic depictions of childhood fears, drug addiction, and the ramifications of religious faith. Indeed, the extraordinary and the ordinary intertwine so successfully that it’s impossible to imagine the book stripped of either; this isn’t a realist novel overlaid with the paranormal, nor is it a fantasy that occasionally interjects glimpses of reality. Anchoring all these big subjects is the voice of Ricky, a tough, honest, funny, and likeable narrator who has made many mistakes in his life but in whom readers can trust and become fully invested. (Reviewed by Marnie Colton).
The Washington Post
Despite its steady pulse of dark humor, its supernatural Voice and the presence of some creepy entities known as the Devils of the Marsh, Big Machine is a novel about faith and the ways in which religion can create monsters far more terrifying than anything dreamed up by H.P. Lovecraft.
The California Literary Review
... a dizzying slipstream mashup of genres and memes and tropes and legends wrapped around a cross-cultural love story.... a transcendent and provocative book that is wildly original and completely absorbing.
The Los Angeles Times
Lest Big Machine seem like an unbroken series of rich hallucinatory tableaux, I want to stress how appealing Ricky Rice's voice is, and how funny a writer LaValle often is.
Starred Review. LaValle has garnered critical acclaim for his previous works ... and his second novel is sure to up his critical standing while furthering comparisons to Haruki Murakami, John Kennedy Toole and Edgar Allan Poe.
Starred Review. Fractures all of our notions of how well-made fiction ought to behave ... idea-hungry and haywire, too alive and abrasive to be missed. The multicultural novel has come of age — smashingly.
LaValle is as much wry fabulist as he is dogged allegorist, and his flights of grim fancy are tethered by acute observations. He can be awfully funny, too. [His] devilish fable renders the visible world – of science, social hierarchies, and New York Times headlines – a load of cultish hooey.
Amy Bloom, author of the New York Times bestseller Away
If Hieronymus Bosch and Lenny Bruce got knocked up by a woman with a large and compassionate heart, they might have brought forth Big Machine. But it is Victor LaValle's peculiar, poetic, rough and funny voice that brings it to us, alive and kicking and irresistible.
Mos Def Big Machine is like nothing I've ever read, incredibly human and alien at the same time. LaValle writes like Gabriel Garcia Marquez mixed with Edgar Allen Poe, but this is even more than that. He’s written the first great book of the next America.
Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector and About Grace
If the literary Gods mixed together Haruki Murakami and Ralph Ellison, and threw in several fistfuls of 21st century attitude, the result would be Victor LaValle. Big Machine is a wonderful, original, and crazy novel.
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