The Five – Robert R. McCammon published by Subterranean Press 2011

Mine, Mystery Walk, Bethany’s Sin, Gone South, They Thirst, Swan Song, Boy’s Life, The Wolf’s Hour (a personal all time fav) and now The Five; the astoundingly enjoyable author of these (and more) novels has returned and I’m half way done with it.  I have been a fan of Robert R. McCammon since I first picked up The Wolf’s Hour in 1989 and read it on a school bus on a trip to …. I don’t even remember where.  I do remember sitting next to my good friend Hugh Merwin and laughing, as only a 14/15 year old boy can, at the passages of the “velvet flower” tracing it’s way up the thighs of the woman the main character is sleeping with within the first few chapters.  I’ve read that book well over a dozen (or more) times, I’ve lost count.  Since that amazing novel (which I will no doubt have to review now) I read all of McCammon’s work and truly have loved them all.

If anyone remembers the HBO show Carnival, I was annoyed because the plot was too close to RRM’s Mystery Walk where two people gained the ability to either destroy or give life; at a price.  Swan Song is, in my estimation the best post-apocalypse book I’ve ever read; yes better than the Stand.  Boy’s Life reminds me why I love fiction in all it’s forms and what a delight hero’s are when you join them on their adventures and quests; and how somewhere along the line of adulthood you loose some of that magic that they infuse you with; but you can get it back with a good read.  So yes I’m a fan of this guy.  He disappeared from the published scene for quite some time; then returned with a new series of historical novels of which the first was wildly good, the second was a fine installment to the series and kept you excited for the ones to come, and of which the third was …. trite and a disappointment.  Low and behold he has taken a brief pause in this series to publish what is being deemed “not only his best novel in years, but ever” (Uncle Stevie himself) : the Five.

The Five takes on the road where the eponymous band is on what may be their last tour.  The road manager is shifting his lifestyle to one away from the rock and roll life; the keyboardist is thinking about going into antique musical item repair, and the rest of the band doesn’t know how they will continue on.  They have just released a video for their newest song that raises some political questions concerning Bush’s oil/war policies and killing in war in general.  The video sparks a dangerous chord in a very unstable vet who views it whilst on his … well what he wanted to be his death bed; but the anger that the bands message relay’s gives him a new lease on life.  Provided he can kill all five of the… Five (yeah I did that).

Great pitch.  Amazing follow through so far.  You know these characters, you feel these characters, whether you hate them, love them or alternate between; which is truthfully how you should react to realistic characters.  Breaths of pages are rapidly read delving into wonderful histories, family backrounds, hopes, dreams, desires, hates and so forth.  RRM writes people that you know, like it or not.  Characters that you may feel are cookie cutter versions of what band members in the early 2000’s should be; become wholly their own, in rich detail.

Have I mentioned the music yet?

In the acknowledgments (or thank yous) in the back of Boy’s Life, Robert thanked almost three pages of his heroes.  When I say heroes I don’t mean mom and dad and his fifth grade teachers, I’m talking Zorro, Batman, Astroboy, Captain Marvel etc.  In telling that particular story Robert reveled in the wonder and awe that adventure heroes inspired in boys (and himself) growing up.  Throughout the novel his love and respect for the fictional daring heroes was wonderfully transferable.  In The Five, his love and admiration for another group of heroes is just as exciting.  Music.

Several months ago in preperation for the soon publication of the Five Robert R. McCammon created a podcast that focused on many b-side, one – hit wonder and just all around groovy music from the Psychedelic 60’s.  Now if any of those reading this know me, understand this was like hitting paydirt; a new book by one of my fav authors and his own thoughts and choices of great music from my favorite decade!!  Christmas for an atheist.  The podcast was I believe four episodes (the final episode ending with Robert reading a passage of a new Michael Gallaten short story – the werewolf from The Wolf’s Hour … AWESOME).

This current novel, The Five is not only about a band; it’s about music.  That swelling ache you get in the marrow of your bones when you hear your favorite guitar maestro let his fingers fly over the frets and strings.  The pounding your heart begins to do when you hear that bass line beat it’s way through the speakers or the drum beat begins to thump.  This novel is brilliantly alive with that love and passion for music.

Update : Ok class I’ve got 100pgs left in this awesome book and I’m here to tell you … it’s just keeps getting better.

There are certain things attract me to certain artists, authors and bands alike.  Diversity.  Pick up Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, then pick up Animals, then listen to Atom Heart Mother.  Notice a difference?  Pick up Dean Koontzs’ Hideaway, then Lightning then Watchers; how about them, differences? Yep.  They are so different from each other yet … the same.  There is talent is being able to hold true to a style yet play around with it so much that each outing brings the audience into a different realm.

One band, six friends (five band members plus a road manager) on a tour bus being chased by a lone gunman.  Straight forward, little cat and mouse; how will it end?  Who will live and who will die are the questions we ask as we read.

Then pages 380-400 happen.  And Holy F’n Crap … Robert R. McCammon strikes!

See you in a few hours when I finish!

Final Update : Finished.  Wow.  Loved it.  As far as my last comment about McCammon striking, well he did and pulled the carpet right out from under me.  Thought is was going left, went right and I loved it.

Imagination, whether it comes in prose or in music, that’s all the magic I need.