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3.6 out of 5 stars
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3.6 out of 5 stars
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Ok, nowadays, when you hear Martin's name, the instant association is (deservedly) with Game of Thrones. But Martin is far from a one-dimensional writer, as this book proves.

Here we find ourselves immersed in the modern world of the eighties, looking back at the music scene of the sixties and seventies, through the eyes of disillusioned journalist/novelist/former radical Sandy Blair, as he investigates the rather grisly murder of a rock band promoter most closely associated with the hard rock band Nazgul, whose lead singer was assassinated while performing. The trail leads through Sandy's sixties friends and associates and on to the SDS and other super-radical groups.

All very normal, could-have-totally happened - till Martin throws in a quiet, subtle, never totally in sight brush with the supernatural that, by the end of the book, just might make your hairs stand on end and have you totally confused as to who to cheer for.

Martin details the music, the belief in change, the youthful optimism of the counter-culture and their defeats and clashes with authority that is sure to invoke strong feelings of nostalgia for those who lived through and were part of that period. At the same time, he shows just what happened to those who were part of that time, as they aged and were faced with the realities of work and supporting a family. There are quotes from various songs of the period throughout the book, some as chapter headings, others woven into the dialog, that do much bring the period to life (for those that remember those songs). His characterization of Sandy is excellent, and many of the supporting characters come through as very distinct, believable, and in many cases somewhat eccentric people. His ending is excellent and surprising, suspenseful right to the final climax.

There's an awful lot to like here, though perhaps it might not resonate as well with younger readers, though even they should be captivated by the both the finely drawn characters and the suspense. As for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 17 April 2014
Well you know the rest. I was still a child when the Sixties finished, so I remember them as a child. The Beatles for me were figures on the back of a packet of Cornflakes which I cut out and stuck in my scrapbook. However we are all the children of the Sixties now, even if that is only because the most popular drama on TV at the moment is the blood soaked fantasies of someone who was there.
The Sixties changed everything, not because of what that decade achieved, but rather because of what it didn't. There was despair before the Sixties, but the Sixties was a decade of hope that things could be better. When things did not get better - "Where have all the flowers gone?" - the despair came back, but now it was worse. If you were there, Woodstock was the greatest Rock Festival ever and there would never be a better one. After Woodstock there was the Altamount Festival where Hell's Angels were employed as guards and someone got killed.
For many the hope of the Sixties died when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. That's right Bobby, it was Bobby Kennedy who was the great hope of some Sixties' activists - the non-violent ones.
In this book these 2 factors are combined into the West Mesa Rock festival where the lead singer of the Nazgul is assassinated. In this story someone is trying to recreate the Sixties by re-staging this concert, but without the unhappy ending. All the points about how the failure of the Sixties just made things worse are here:
-There is the Sixties' idealist who is now cleaning up in the city - the hippies who became yuppies
-The college kids who have lost any anger and who are just studying to get jobs
-The sad refugees in communes trying to hold on to their ideals at the fringes
-And the violent radicals who decided that the peaceful protests just weren't going to change anything and adopted the ways of those they purported to despise.
The Sixties - "Yeah baby!!" You'd laugh if it wasn't so crushingly sad.
Game of Thrones: "In the Game of Thrones you either win or die!"...really is that all that is left now George? As Ethan Morse says, "The bleeding won't stop! The !!!!! bleeding won't stop!"
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on 10 September 2015
This book is nothing like the song of fire and ice series which has made George R R Martin such a popular author recently and it's not intended to be. This is a story that stands on its own and if you were around in the 60/70s you will enjoy the throwbacks to the music from that era. It's well written and engaging at times but the characters are not as broad as a Song of Fire & Ice. I don't fully understand why this was given such a negative response from critics as I thought the book was decent and well worth a read.
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on 31 October 2016
I really wanted to enjoy this one more than I did.

I love Martin’s work. Don’t get me wrong, I do not have the most extensive Martin collection, but I have read a decent number. Sadly, however, this one makes the cut as my least favourite George R. R. Martin book. Such a thing really disappoints me as I’d been sure that it would win me over in the end.

Alas, this book was made up of moments where I was really enjoying it and moments where I just wanted the whole thing to be over. To make matters worse, there were more of the latter. Such a thing makes it hard for me to gauge just how much I enjoyed this read. It’s a case of when I was enjoying it I was really enjoying it but when I wasn’t I completely hated it. The shift between the two stages was so rapid, with the hatred stages lasting longer, and now a part of me feels as though I have betrayed Martin by disliking this book.

The idea was great, it had the potential to be such an interesting story, yet it did not cut it for me. In fact, I felt as though there was quite a bit of false advertisement with this one. It seemed more like a trip down memory lane for our main character than it did the following of some strange apocalyptic band. It was a weird read, but not the right kind of weird.

Overall, I’d simply been expecting more.
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on 2 January 2015
The Armageddon Rag, part mystery, part horror novel, part modern fantasy and part literary novel focusing on the Death of the American Sixties' Dream and one baby-boomer's mid-life crisis is ambitious, complex, and ambitious. And brilliant.. A too abrupt ending(often a problem in George Martin's longer works--he doesn't really do denouments) mars an otherwise brilliant novel.
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on 13 July 2013
As always with Martin's work, the writing is flawless, almost liquid. There is no re-reading of sentences for lack of understanding, or the feeling that you're reading a story for two-year-olds (subject.verb.direct object.stop.reapeat). It's just beautiful in its simplicity and clarity.
A crystal ball through which this messy, drug and alcohol infused 60's era is looked upon not only by us, the readers, but by the strong minded, intelligent reporter (Sandy) who is our protagonist.
Although the plot isn't for everyone-rock band is brought back to life, so to speak, for another chance at the fame and fortune that they had in yesteryear.- it is appealing in the sense that it shows a before and after, a transformation.
The fact that one can remember a large amount of characters credits Martin's capability for description of people and their interactions. Yes the long scenes are a bit overbearing, but so was the music of the time, everything was done excessively.
Recommended for all those old hippies out there, or anyone wishing they were one.
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on 11 March 2013
The other reviews of this book amaze me. I have been a big fan of George RR Martin since the early '80's. I have read most of his books and short stories and most of them are excellent. I remember seeing this in a bookstore in the 80's and for some reason I didn't buy it. Then it disappeared and for years you couldn't get it. Well, a few years back I finally got a copy - and learned why it has been unavailable for so long. Of all Martins book's this is by far the worst. It is amateurishly written compared to his other books. What further amazes me is that people on here rate this higher than the wonderful Windhaven. Steer clear - there are many other great books by Martin. If you are coming from Game of Thrones, then try Tuf Voyaging; Windhaven; Sandkings; Dying of the Light; the flawed but good Fevre Dream; or the fantastic Wild Cards series (especially the early ones). Steer clear of this one though, or it may put you off him.
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on 17 June 2014
Good old George does a fabulous story here with Sandy Blair (a reporter/writer) who starts digging up what really happened to the 60's top heavy Band Nazgul during their infamous West Mesa gig where the lead singer (TIm Hobbins aka 'Hobbit) got his head blown off > expect some great twists and evocative writing in this novel interspersed with Martin's usual sexual wit and bravado. On the whole a great novel with awesome characters and detail, however I mainly thought the lack of more than one inherent storyline makes the twists less surprising and/or satisfactory + too quickly resolved. I recommend this to ALL readers of Game of Thrones and thriller reader's in general, as it showcases that George M. is not simply a master of fantasy but handles many genres well.
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on 19 August 2014
I bought this on the basis of the name. It just seemed to me to be a revisiting of the 1960s with a supernatural story thrown in. The supernatural story wasn't particularly innovative. Large chunks of the book seemed to have no purpose other than nostalgia. As I guessed, I wondered whether the characters he visits Bambi, Lark etc weren't people he knew from those days. I suppose the good thing is that he got lots better in his later books!
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on 2 March 2014
If you're thinking of buying this on the strength of the amazing Game of Thrones saga, don't. You'd never believe it was written by the same author. I got bored reading it and only finished it because I hate not finishing a book. The best thing about it was the fact that it was written in the early 80s and it was interesting dipping a toe back into the world before mobile communications technology and the internet.
Give it a miss.
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