Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: The Five by Robert McCammon

The Five by Robert McCammon
Subterranean Press
520 pages

McCammon is the author several of my favorite novels. In the 80's he was one of the most popular horror writers riding the wave of Stephen King's massive popularity. While He was often compared to King, I have always felt McCammon was a superior novelist. Novels like Boy's Life, Mine or Swan's Song are near perfect tight novels that work like an engine firing on all cylinders.

In the last few years McCammon seemed to stray from the horror field, his novel output slowed and he turned to historical mysteries set in the early years of New York city. These books are thick, well researched and even though I bought them and they sit on my shelf they just didn't interest me enough to read them.

I first heard of McCammon's return to the modern setting like most when Stephen King said it was the best novel of the year and McCammon's best. Ok sold, and right to the top of the “To be read pile.” I'm glad I did, I might not agree that it is McCammon's best but it is one of the best novels I have read in some time.

The Five is the story of a struggling rock band who the novel is named after. They are strange group of people living the hard life trying to make it a go as a touring band. Shortly after the book starts the band starts to fall apart. After the manager and keyboardist admit to Nomad the band leader that they are done it looks like the band is over. After they finish the tour.

It's to bad because their new video for an anti-war ballad “When the storm breaks” is starting to get play. It also was noticed by a traumatized Iraq war sniper who is anything but a fan. That is when said sniper decides he wants to make sure those snot nosed rocker never finish their tour. This is where the novel about hard rockers becomes a thriller, or much like McCammon's classic novel 'Mine' a horror novel without one shred of supernatural tropes.

'Mine' was thriller about a mother and her kidnapped child, her struggle to get her child back. Of course when you read 'Mine' you get into the characters and story long before you realize there is a much deeper subtext. The Five is a thriller, and road novel about rock and roll but it's subtext comes to the surface about 375 pages into the book. At that point the message becomes a little heavy handed, but that doesn't matter one bit. McCammon is so skilled at pacing and characters that you are so invested in the story that you'll realize the subtext was peppered through out.

There is a moment when the message is pushed to the surface. But I liked it. The Five is a novel about the tapestry of Rock and roll, the universe of live music, what it all means. The Five works on many, many levels. It's a masterpiece written by a man who has a few of those. This book should have wide appeal and it's a crime that is not a a Number one bestseller.

1 comment:

Brad said...

What's a crime is that YOU never gave the Matthew Corbett series a chance. You profess what a great writer McCammon is, and he is. But you're not willing to read some of his work because you think it's a certain type story, even though you DON'T KNOW because YOU HAVEN'T READ IT. Yes, all the rest of his work is great, and, so is THE REST of his work. Other than that...nice review.