Tag Archives: Musical ensemble

Rock bottom by Michael Shilling

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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 Amsterdamfor 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. 

If I was asked to use just one word to describe Rock Bottom I think the word I would use would be surprising.  For a novel that has been referred to as “raunchy, knowing, brilliant” using the word surprising is somewhat…surprising.  But, let me explain.

Rock Bottom chronicles the last day of a rock band called Blood Orphans.  At one point they were the next big thing.  This book is a comically dark, sometimes over the top look at what might have been as well as what is yet to come. 

As we are introduced to the guys in the band we find that each one, in his own way, is bitter, disillusioned, and praying for a quick end to this less than magical mystery tour.  But, something funny happens on the way to the last gig.  A strange set of events conspires to show each of them that even though all seems lost, there is a level of love and respect that wasn’t really lost, just misplaced somewhere along the road.  And while this was their last night together as band mates, it wasn’t their last night together as friends.

As I read this book I began to have my doubts that it could hold my interest.  Getting to know these self-absorbed underachievers almost didn’t seem worth it.  By the end of the book I found myself pulling for each one of them to come away with something positive that they could carry with them into the next stages of their lives.  I began to care.  How surprising.

Michael Shilling is a Lecturer at the University of Michigan, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing. His stories have appeared in The Sun, Fugue, and Other Voices. A recovering rock musician, he played the drums in The Long Winters, as well as numerous other bands in Seattle. Currently, he is working on a novel set in Victorian England.
 
Thanks so much to Miriam of Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to review this book!
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