Big Machine

Big Machine

by Victor LaValle

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Customer Reviews

Big Machine 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
leftyguitarman More than 1 year ago
I had a lot of difficulty reading this book. What the hell is it about? I've read thousands and thousands of books and only given up on few. I almost gave up on this one. I'm still not sure why I finished it. It was not an inspiring read by any means.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What an excellent book. Gritty, combination of mystery, supernatural, and part detective novel, Big Machine had me flipping pages in suspense, while also laughing hysterically at some points. Big Machine kind of reminds me of a Walter Mosley Easy Rawlings tale, just set in more current times. I am bookmarking this author as a must-read!
GingerbreadMan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ricky Rice is just over forty and has a room of his own and a steady job as a bus toilet janitor. It¿s not much of a life, but as an ex-heroinist and ex-con with a crappy leg it¿s perhaps all he can hope for. Until he receives a letter, containing a bus ticket to Vermont and a note saying: ¿You made a promise in Cedar Rapids in 2002. Time to honor it¿. And after just a little hesitation, Ricky drops everything and goes. And steps into the world of the Washburn library, a huge hidden estate in the forest, where a group of dropouts, drunks and ex-junkies are trying to reconnect with an almost 200 years old prophecy. A work which is now being threatened from within.Any book that comes with a strong recommendation from Claire and/or Pete raises my interest, as I tend to like their taste for the slightly odd, distorted and peculiar. And there is really a lot to like in this engrossing and original book. If you like Gaiman¿s urban fantasy, but can stand a little bit more strangeness, this could well be for you. Me, I loved the image of a secret society with big, but clearly limited resources ¿ how you travel to your important mission on a Greyhound bus with a second hand, ancient laptop and a handful of phone cards in your bag. And the chapters about Ricky¿s upbringing in the Washerwomen cult, formed by three sisters who¿ve escaped murder charges in the south and rewritten the Bible to be set in the US, are the best in the whole book, creating a nailbiting tension. LaValle also handles a storytelling device that¿s often annoying to me as a reader ¿ a main character who withholds information from the reader, and gives it out on a need-to-know basis ¿ pretty well.But I find myself strangely unable to relate to Ricky and Adele, the leading characters. It¿s like I get to know both too much and too little about them at once, and neither of them really comes alive to me. The same goes for the world. I actually like the puzzling and unexplained, but once you have been starting explaining and creating logic, like LaValle does here, any gaps become that more evident for it. Which means that the book in a way is too clear to pull off being mysterious, in a way. Threads left hanging or just being half-assedly explained don¿t come across as enigmatic, but instead as weaknessess. To this particular reader, at this particular time, there are a few too many of them.So, I end up liking this book, even though I wanted to, and suspect I could have, loved it. But it¿s really an original, quick and fresh read, and I¿m happy to look out for more books by LaValle.
Voise15 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Readable, enjoyable! The American novel of redemption and second chances, and defining our truth in a world of beliefs. GK Chesterton-like.
superfastreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Synopsis:A brokedown junkie, ex-cultist and mass murder survivor gets a mysterious invitation to become an Unlikely Scholar investigating odd phenomena across America.Review:Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Big Machine rocked my world. Stylistically, it¿s a mash-up of Haruki Murakami and Stephen King, with a bit of Ralph Ellison for good measure.When junkie Ricky Rice becomes an Unlikely Scholar under way mysterious circumstances, he finds himself scouring newspapers for stories that give evidence to The Voice. His journey grows ever more wild, and as he travels across the country from Vermont to northern California on the trail of the Voice and something more human and more ominous, he reflects back on the journey that got him to this point. His childhood in a cult, his years as a junkie and petty criminal, and his efforts to stay on the straight and narrow become more than just a life story. It¿s a Pilgrim¿s Progress founded on doubt¿but a doubt that might be stronger than the faith of some.LaValle has a lot to say about American fanaticism of all stripes. The social commentary here is fascinating, specific, and outrageously funny. Ricky Rice will become one of my favorite characters for the unique voice LaValle gives him, at once guileless and sneaky, wise and foolish, a street smart risk taker who has survived way too much.The story is wild beyond imagining, with horror elements that don¿t hold back. LaValle is not genre-slumming here. He genuinely wants to freak us out.I was fortunate enough to hear LaValle read a large chunk of the opening of this book, and I was hooked. Definitely planning to read more of his work.
piankeshaw on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a novel that is difficult to categorize. Not that that is a bad thing. The main character is likable and just flows with the action. A wild mix of mysticism and the paranormal, blended with stark reality and the wilds of northern Vermont. I had just finished "Wind-up Bird Chronicles" when I started this and found many parallels.
clfisha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't think I have read many books like this, I certainly haven't read enough. Mixing mysticism with harsh reality and a heavy dose of redemption, this is a funny, dark, honest and beautiful book and an ambitious one.Really that's all need you know.oh well if you must..all I am saying about the plot is this: It starts with Ricky, a mysterious invitation and the utterly cool line "Don't look for dignity in public bathrooms" and then a master class in mystery writing unfolds.I knew next to nothing about the plot and I found it fascinating, memorable and truly odd. From the beginning you are kept on your toes and in dark yet I never once felt frustrated, Lavalles timing is just too perfect. The characters are vivid, interesting, deeply flawed and always terribly human (even the peripheral characters seem to shine) and whilst there are so many obvious monsters the book rarely takes the easy black and white way out serving to make events even more startling.Ok it's not a manic whirlwind of a thriller but it's a steady, fair paced tale which hooks you in and is terribly hard to stop thinking about. I highly recommend this book to err.. to well everyone: the deft blending of so many genres, the darkness and ugliness is elevated by the light, everyday reality is spiced with the bizarre, faith and passion mixed with doubt. To be honest what's not to like?
Girl_Detective on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ricky Ray is a bus-station janitor in upstate New York when he receives an envelope that moves his life in a new direction. He's been a junkie, a thief, even part of a cult, but none of these have prepared him for the strangeness he's about to encounter when he's invited to a place called The Washburn Library. The details of this book are so lovely and strange I don't want to spoil them. This is a surprising book that includes elements of horror, spirituality, mystery, even a kind of coming-of-age. The central characters are all black, and the story's blend of mystical realism reminded me, in a good way, of Colson Whitehead's 'The Intuitionist'. It is by turns funny, tragic, horrifying, and wondrous. Throughout, though, it made me want to turn its pages. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, or wanting to get back to reading it.
andafiro on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Adding this to my library now though I read it some time ago--this title just now showed up as a recommendation and I want to confirm that yes, it's a good recommendation. ;-)
slickdpdx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Algorithm: If you like Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, Russell Greenan, Wm. Vollmann and Colson Whitehead, you will like Big Machine.
libsue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
" Don't look for dignity i public bathrooms. The most you'll find is privacy and sticky floors" That's Ricky Rice a 40 year old heroin addict. He's currently working in Utica as a cleaner in the bus station. One day an envelope arrives for him-it contains a bus ticket to Burlington, Vermont and a cryptic note that says"You made a promise in Cedar Rapids in 202. Time to honor it." He's not sure why he's been called. He's not sure he'll go, but he ends up on that bus during a snow storm. He finds himself on a journey both physical and spiritual. Big Machine is a great book about faith, and what it means to be human in an inhumane time. This is a book that will grab you and not let you go. It's a wild ride at times, and you'll also have to have faith in LaValle because he does take you places that you'd never expect, but pick it up and fall in love with some wonderful writing.
RachelWeaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To preface this review, I'll just say that I'm not good with the supernatural. I don't read fantasy, sci-fi or horror novels. Generally speaking, they either bore me, annoy me, and or at worst, insult my intelligence. Also, I'm an atheist. However, the fact that I still wanted to pick up this book after reading the description, and the fact that I still gave this book 5 stars after finishing it says a lot in my book. LaValle is doing a lot of different things here, from urban realism to allegory, from philosophical novel to mystical fantasy, and I would say that LaValle is about 95% successful. And those parts he's successful at?--he's 200% successful. I've mostly broken my college habit of marking up my books, but it was very hard to resist the urge with this one. There's so much to chew on, to look back on, to ponder for a very long time to come. If I were a college English professor, I would go out of my way to build a course around this book. I particularly love the way the book looks at faith and doubt, not as opposites, but as a system of checks and balances to keep religious fanaticism at bay.
eenerd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A recommendation for those in weird fiction! A group of ex-criminals on the path to rehabilitation are sent to the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont and become paranormal investigators for what is termed the Washburn Library. Ricky Rice, the Dean, the Grey Lady, the Unlikely Scholars and a host of other characters share their stories and journeys, highs and lows. A truly strange book, I still am not sure what to even think.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. The lens through which narrator views the mad world of the story is quite unique. Bold writing that doesn't pull punches or shy away from difficult subjects. Big ideas delivered with subtlety and a graceful style. A little crazy -- which I like. We need more deliberate, intelligent glimpses at what's called crazy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waste of time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i'm an avid reader. 2-3 books a month in all genre's and it's been 3 weeks i've been trying to read this book. i like the writing style of this author but i have no damn clue what this book is about and i'm 70 pages from the end :-/ i dont even want to finish but i'm no quitter!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The "Big Machine" is a powerful book. There are parts that still come to mind and I have to stop and think about it a little bit more. I have no idea how to describe this book other than biblical. It would interesting to see what others think about this description. There were times that I got so lost I couldn't unravel where I was unless I thought about biblical stories. This is a very entertaining book. I love Vistor's writing style. He is a natural born writer. You can tell by his writing that he sees life as a series of stories. I imagine he is a very interesting person to spend time with. If you decide to read this book and I think you should. Please don't put the book in a catagory until you are finished. There are parts still make me think it's a mystery. There are other parts that want me to put it in just a general fiction catagory. But that would be too confining. You need to see for yourself where you would place this book.
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This book had so many surprises it kept me entertained the entire time. You would never have thought by reading the beginning of it how it would end or that it was even science fiction. Highly recommend this book.
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