Joel Lane, for those of us who spend their lives trawling the Best New and Year's Best collections of horror stories, is a superb writer. In prose or poetry, he has embraced the modern themes of our world and seen the horror in them. Like Ramsey Campbell before him, Joel Lane sees that horror is created from within, a deep-seated range of potentials and possibilities that we are the subjects of, and not the masters. It is somewhat surprising then, to find his excellent - and overdue - collections followed by a novel about an Indie band! But then, what more horror could there be... That is, of course, flippant. The reality is that in Lane's eyes, there are horrors everywhere, for they are the combinations of interaction and isolation that we all undergo. Racism, sexism, homophobia, suicide and death - these are all terrifying, but all too common, perversions of the human condition. And in this novel, they are analysed with a scrutiny that no merely superficial pop-biog could bear. It is not enough to review this book in comparison with "un"official histories of bands and their members, because that is to miss the point utterly. This novel is about the emotions and aspirations of people - be they musicians, writers, milkmen, it would scarcely matter - and where it is important that these people share an occupation, it is to the benefit of the analysis. Artists are, after all, emotional folk - they struggle against odds, and often find themselves swallowed up by circumstances of their own design. This novel, with its blinding observations and tragic love, is not starry-eyed and prejudiced as a rock-biog. It is a glimpse of reality, an expression of emotions and wishes, and a dark triumph over shallow journalistic excess. I await his next novel with great interest.
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