Rock Bottom is the first, and I hope not the last, novel from "recovering rock musician" Michael Shilling. I want to start by saying that I was prepared to read 30 pages and give the book up. Based on other reviews, which were all positive, I really thought it wouldn't be my cup of tea. WRONG! I couldn't put it down! Regular readers of this blog have read about the different side effects from my bone marrow transplant and the heavy medications I take. One of these side effects has been the inability to concentrate and eyesight that fades in and out. It's only in the last month that I've been back to my regular reading schedule, and Rock Bottom is the first book I stayed up all night to finish.
From the publisher:
Once, the Blood Orphans had it all: a million-dollar recording contract from Warner Brothers, killer hooks, and cheekbones that could cut glass. Four pretty boys from Los Angeles, they were supposed to be the next big thing, future kings of rock and roll. But something happened on the way to glory, and now, two years later, along with their coke-fueled, mohawked female manager, they have washed up in Amsterdam for the final show of their doomed and dismal European tour. The singer has become a born-again Buddhist who preaches from the stage, the bass player's raging eczema has turned his hands into a pulpy mess, the drummer is a sex-fiend tormented by the misdeeds of his porn-king father, and the guitar player--the only talented one--is thoroughly cowed by the constant abuse of his bandmates. As they stumble through their final day together, the Blood Orphans find themselves on a comic tour of frustration, danger, excitement, and just possibly, redemption.
Told from the point of view of Blood Orphans' four band mates and their manager, Joey, each chapter gives a different perspective on events happening in Amsterdam on the day of the group's last scheduled performance. In an interview, Michael Shilling said, "...rock bands are the ultimate unreliable narrators...By having such a varied set of viewpoints... I could provide a sense of solidity to the narrative, so that any epiphany or understanding that a character arrived at could be emotionally cross-checked by another."I enjoyed following the story through the different characters because there was no heavy overlapping of events. One character's narrative usually picked up right where the last left off. The storyline takes place in one day, less than 24 hours, which I was dubious about at first. However, there is the addition of memories from each of the narrators: how the band formed, what has brought them down, childhood influences, all of which have brought them to this place on this day.
The little I know of rock band life I learned from Behnd the Music, so I am no expert, but the story felt real to me. At times raunchy and frightening, the characters still gained my sympathy through the despair of some at the dashing of their dreams, and the poignancy of the efforts by others to try to keep things going. Full of pop culture references, yet strongly literary, I found Rock Bottom to be an exciting book written by someone who must be a very interesting man with whom to converse and hang out.