I've just emerged from a few days in the world of Alternative Hero and must share my experience!
I always like the idea of music novels but to be honest, am often disappointed by one shortcoming: a fictional band, on the page, all too often feels, well, like the stuff of fiction. Successful music acts rely on charisma and stage presence and a PR machine for us to believe in them - take it all away and they're just a bunch of people with a bit of talent who can play instruments and carry a tune. (Not always even that - eg. Ocean Colour Scene.) Though Ian Banks arguably came close with Espedair Street, all the fictional bands I've encountered fall short of believability - their song titles always sound clunky and the bands' names never quite rung true.
So, what I'm trying to say is that in Alternative Hero, Tim Thornton has arguably created the most believable, charismatic, yet deeply real and human band you'll ever read about: The Thieving Magpies. In fact, there is now part of my mind that is everso slightly convinced that I saw them at Reading in 1993. And didn't I once own their first album?
I could also bang on about the fact that it has a great plot, some incredibly adroit descriptions of the 90s indie music scene - particularly the festivals - a very likeably complex narrator in the shape of Clive, and a surprisingly satisfying ending. But mainly you should read it to find out about the best band you've never heard of.
One question I'd love to know the answer to though: who are the Theiving Magpies based on, I Wonder? Stuff like this keeps me up at night...