The Short Version: Mister Sun, an assassin, heads to Los Angeles for a job. Once there, he encounters a slightly unexpected turn of events – but he is nothing if not a consummate professional.
The Review: The “Kindle Single” / single-story-e-book culture is a new one to me. This is mostly because I don’t own an e-reader, a topic I have mentioned before and will no doubt mention again so I don’t really need to get into here. But as a result, I’ve had the terrible misfortune of sometimes missing out on an otherwise quite lovely piece of writing – a single-shot application of an author, available immediately and painlessly.
I had Dead Pig Collector on my radar, though. After Mr. Ellis’ sudden break with Mulholland Books and subsequent jump to FSG (under whose brilliant “Originals” imprint he’s publishing a non-fiction book next year that sounds incredible), I knew that this story was coming. I’m not only a fan of Mr. Ellis’ writing (see: Crooked Little Vein, my on-going journey through his Transmetropolitan series) but a fan of his… oh this is strange to say: his internet persona as well. Like Joe Hill and Neil Gaiman, he’s got a solid Twitter/Tumblr presence and he genuinely engages with his fans, for better or for worse. All of this is to say: I was ready for this one.
Armed with the Largehearted Boy playlist he designed to accompany the story (and which takes approximately as long to play through as it does to read the story itself), I settled in on the train this morning – and dispatched it on the train home. It is a perfectly sized short story: just long enough to develop tone and atmosphere and character but gets out before things get too complicated. The plot is straightforward and simple and, it must be said, entirely predictable. You know from the minute things take their out-of-the-ordinary turn (for Mister Sun, that is. I’d wager the general plot of this book is pretty out of the ordinary for the staggering majority of people. If it is not out of the ordinary for you and you’re reading this… well, actually, that’s kind of cool. Please don’t kill me.) that the course will be corrected. But you enjoy watching Mister Sun (and by extension, Mr. Ellis) work – that’s why you’re here.
Ellis brings his usual macabre sensibilities to the table, mixing the dark and seamy side of life with a hefty dose of new and interesting technologies. A twisted version of Snapchat helps connect Mister Sun with his clients, there is discussion of the pros of an Android phone and of how terrible the increasing prevalence of ads all over everything can be, and Mister Sun even explains that all of the tools he uses to dispose of a body can be gathered for less than a hundred dollars at your local hardware store. It’s all so earnestly writ and so neatly tucked into the vernacular of our present human moment that you could be forgiven for forgetting, for a moment, that Mister Sun spends the majority of this book disposing of a body in a bathtub. The joy that Ellis takes in this disparity is evident on the page: he’s having fun writing this, knowing that we will have fun (but also be a little weirded out) reading it.
Rating: 5 out of 5. The simplest measure of a book review should be whether or not the book (story, novella, e-book, etc) succeeds in hitting the marks it establishes at the start. This story has no pretensions of being anything larger than itself and while we could certainly hope to see more of Mister Sun somewhere else someday, no one will be writing Mr. Ellis fan-mail and demanding that he be brought back in another story. This is funny, dark, intelligent, well-written – and over in just the right amount of time for a day’s commute. What more, sometimes, could you ask for?