Over at Slate.com, Jonathan Rosenbaum has an intelligent review of Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. Rosenbaum considers Inherent Vice in the context of the full Pynchon canon, finding this latest novel loaded with “retreads” that are “cheap thrills” rather than “fresh historical insights.” Rosenbaum criticizes Inherent Vice for “playing by most of the genre rules” and including “most of the usual mystery staples” with only “debatable” success as a genre piece. While Rosenbaum’s criticisms are certainly fair, in my view, they’re also overly harsh.
I agree that Inherent Vice sticks too close to its chosen genre and, as a result, sacrifices some Pynchonian depth, but I disagree that the novel is no more than “a modest diversion.” The welcome additions of a suspenseful plot and a bumbling, big-hearted protagonist, along with many fewer “huh?” moments, make Inherent Vice a delight to read. The fact that it’s less ponderous and more accessible than Pynchon’s previous novels doesn’t make it less accomplished. While a critic has labeled Inherent Vice as “minor Pynchon,” I prefer to think of it as "starter Pynchon.” As such, it serves an important, and needed, role within the Pynchon canon.
(See my full review of Inherent Vice here.)