CROOKED LITTLE VEIN by Warren Ellis (William Morrow/HarperCollins), 277 pages, $27.95 paper. Rating: NN
One of the best things about comic book writing is the purple prose. And the prose in Crooked Little Vein, the first novel by Warren Ellis, the creator of the totally brilliant Transmetropolitan comics, is so purple it's ultraviolet. It's laced with graphic psychosexual weirdness that flies beyond absurdity into high hilarity.
One of the worst things about comic book writing is the simplistic plots, and Ellis can't make the leap from comic to novel.
A U.S. presidential aide - think Karl Rove - coerces a down-and-out private eye into tracking down the secret alternate U.S. Constitution, which has magic powers to brainwash people back into the good ole missionary position days.
A sexually straight private eye and sexually open cute girl follow the document's trail and pull a raid. Then an obvious deus ex machina pops up to resolve everything.
It's as tight and simple as your average three-episode superhero comic, and so are the characters. They dovetail perfectly into plot and theme, but that's all they do. The theme - that thanks to the Internet, there is no more sexual underground and therefore everything is normal - is fairly interesting. It, too, gets the simple treatment: stated, yes, explored, no.
None of these would be flaws in a comic, where reading time is considerably shorter and the pictures add tons of nuance and weight. But the novel's a different form, with different demands, and Ellis isn't tuned into them, which makes this, at best, a funny time-waster.
Pick up any of the Transmetropolitan graphic novels instead. You'll get more entertainment for less money.