I heard, somewhere, that the film rights for this book were optioned. I think that a movie of Big Machine could
be great, but if it ever happens it probably won't be. This is mostly because it would be so easy to turn this story into a real run-of-the-mill supernatural thriller. (Another reason is that the chances of such a story being told, on the big screen, with a mostly black cast is, unfortunately, still hard to imagine happening, even in goddamn 2011.)
I still hate that there's a whole, massive contemporary genre that can only be referred to as "literary," because that means almost nothing and only signals the absence of genre. That said, Big Machine is the kind of current "literary" novel that I love: one that, if you describe the plot, sounds like an adventure story, but the devil is in the details. The differences comes about based on which things the author focuses upon and where the spotlight is shined. Big Machine could, as I said, come across like another thriller, but really it has the plot of a fantasy novel (and that's without the supernatural stuff that may or may not be going on).
Hero chosen by obscure and not-at-all-forthright order to hunt down and destroy the mysterious and mystical figure who is amassing an army of drones far away, aided at times by strange creatures? Sounds like epic fantasy to me. Of course, "far away" is the Bay Area, because our junky/janitor hero's from the East Coast, and the enigmatic organization he's working for can't even afford to get him plane tickets most of the time. Naturally, a lot of the things I've mentioned here aren't even where most of the book spends it's time: it's mostly about our "hero" Ricky Rice and his strange life, from the religious cult he grew up in to his realizations about how dressing well can affect one's self-image.
On top of all this, the book deals, largely, with poverty and the varied reactions to it, with addiction and violence and the crippling need to belong, with faith and blind faith and doubt (especially
those last three. And with all these weighty themes swirling around us it manages to surprise you, near the end, when you realize that for quite some time you've been seeing all this in the context of a fast-moving plot that's now racing to a violent finish. Oh yeah, it's also really darkly funny.
There were definitely flaws with this book, but every book has flaws -- to me, the sign of an amazing book is if, right after reading it, I can't remember what any of those flaws were.