Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review - My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek

My Favorite Band Does Not Exist
Robert T. Jeschonek
Clarion Books
Publication Date: July 11, 2011
ARC Trade Paperback Uncorrected Proof
336 pages
ISBN: 054737027X


Robert T. Jeschonek’s My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is a somewhat peculiar, highly enjoyable, and intricate, multi-layered in-book fantasy within a tale within a story. Idea Deity (yes, that’s his name) has created an imaginary band that’s become an overnight, Internet sensation even though they haven’t released a single song to the public yet . Idea’s website includes fictional tour dates, invented member bios, and imaginary lyrics for a band he calls Youforia. In addition, Idea suffers from a rare disorder known as Deity Syndrome, a psychosomatic condition that makes him believe he’s a character created for a novel. To make matters infinitely worse, he’s convinced he’ll meet his demise in the middle of Chapter 64 which he fears is close. Okay, I know this sounds really weird but it gets better(read weirder)…

Elsewhere, introvert musician Reacher Miracle (yes, that’s his name) the actual leader of a band called Youforia can’t understand how someone could post so much inside information about his band, his life, and his songs on the Internet. Constantly on the run there’s no way anyone could gather so many details about the band. Reacher is determined to find the webmaster of this fake but viral website to find out how he knows so much about him and a band that has yet to play a single note in public. (Does Reacher also suffer from Deity Syndrome?)

In-book, both Reacher and Idea happen to be reading the same Swords and Sorcery fantasy novel called Fireskull's Revenant* and since both protagonists are equally invested in the book we get to read portions of the story along with them. The interspersed chapters from Fireskull's Revenant are presented with tattered, worn pages so you know when you’ve breached the in-novel fantasy which chronicles the tale of an epic battle between two superhuman/magical characters.

I must admit a certain curiosity pertaining to the link between the various disparate, in-book stories (which prompted a lot of quick page-turning to be sure) and how the author was going to pull it all together but the chain of events he created knit the different story lines together so well that they flowed into a brilliantly written, effortless, and epic conclusion(s). I was pleasantly surprised at the imaginative technique and singular skill Jeschonek employed to bring all the loose story arcs successfully together.

In some ways My Favorite Band Does Not Exist reminds me of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and Bradley Denton’s Wrack and Roll both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The literary trope of jumping between books (while in-book) exits in Fforde’s work (although it’s a bit more complicated than that) and the out-of-control Rock ‘n Roll theme is prevalent in Denton’s. While My Favorite Band Does Not Exist contains elements of both it’s also rife with character paranoia, tribalism, fantasy, and the absurd which, in my opinion, makes it well worth the time spent reading it.

Naming conventions follow the Thomas Pynchon school of thought where character names contain symbolism (both subtle and obvious) and ultimately help define the attributes and personalities of the main characters. With names like Idea Deity, and his parents Vengeful Deity and Loving Deity, Reacher Mirage, Johnny Without, Lord Fireskull, and Eunice Truant this is evidently “meaningful naming” where the first, last, or full names say something primal about the character, often with multiple layers. In addition, the characters we meet are always more than they seem and symbolism is endemic in every name, occupation, and physical description.

As a debut urban-fantasy novel My Favorite Band Does Not Exist stands out as an ambitious and promising start for author Robert T. Jeschonek who is obviously a talented and creative writer. I, for one, would like to see his sophomore effort. As a reviewer I’m always interested in reading additional works of debut novelists so that I can follow their growth as writers, be it urban fantasy or not. What ever he plans to release next I’ll be tracking it closely.

File Under: Jasper Fforde meets Wrack and Roll meets Uber-urban fantasy meets metafiction meets Swords and Sorcery meets trashed hotel rooms. If you enjoy any of these individually you’ll love My Favorite Band Does Not Exist/ Fireskull's Revenant collectively.

My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is available today, July 11, 2011 in hardcover. Review copy provided free as part of the Amazon Vine program.

4 stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Robert Jeschonek Website

Fireskull’s Revenant Artwork

Accidental Rabbit Tracks Blog Review

IndieBound Page

Additional Books Containing Another Work of Fiction Within Itself:

The Laughing Man (Short Story) by J.D. Salinger

The Dark Tower by C. S. Lewis

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

* Note: I’m not exactly sure how or where I got this impression but I felt that the fantasy novel Fireskull's Revenant was originally written by Mr. Jeschonek as a stand-alone story that eventually got eaten whole by the Idea/Reacher/Youforia novel and churned into the three-way fantasy My Favorite Band Does Not Exist. Then again, I’ve been known to be wrong…

No comments: