Robert T. Jeschonek, My Favorite Band Does Not Exist (Clarion Books, 2011)
Finally, someone wrote the ultimate hipster book!
No, no, I kid. My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is way, way better than anything that would use the phrase “I only liked them before they signed to a major label.” It’s a fantasy novel of the most ridiculous stripe, playing out simultaneously in our world, an alternate version of our world, and the pages of a mystical fantasy novel beloved of the protagonists of both of the other storylines that begins eerily echoing the real-world events. In other words, there’s a whole lot going on here. Because of this, it’s possible Jeschonek may have missed his target demographic, judging by the decidedly mixed reviews the book has gotten (it’s a rarity on Amazon, a book with an almost-perfect bell curve in the Customer Reviews box). I am not entirely sure, however, that this is a bad thing.
Plot: Idea Deity (you see where we’re going here?), the protagonist of the real-world storyline, is sixteen years old, socially awkward, and has just met the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. Until she turns around. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but Eunice Truant, the young lady in question, has a second face tattooed on the back of her head. (This becomes very important later.) Idea is on the run from his parents, as well as a pair of trenchcoated guys they’ve hired to track him down. Eunice helps him outwit them, and while they’re on the run, Idea reveals to her that he believes someone else, more shadowy and more powerful, is also after him, and that that person was somehow involved with the creation of the novel Fireskull’s Revenant—and that he predicted Idea’s death, which will happen in Chapter Sixty-Four. Idea is also the perpetrator of the Internet’s greatest hoax, Youforia, a band that doesn’t actually exist… except in the alternate-universe portion of the storyline, where Reacher Mirage, the frontman for Youforia, is trying to figure out who the hell keeps leaking news of the band’s supposedly-secret gigs on the Internet, and why the characters in his favorite book, Fireskull’s Revenant, remind him so much of his eternally-bickering bandmates.
Here’s the problem as I see it, judging by the reviews I’ve read: My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is not a book for beginners, in the same way Akira is not anime for beginners (though it always seems to be presented that way). I think you’ll get a lot more out of this book if you’ve got a solid grounding in high fantasy of the swords-and-sorcery stripe, as well as some form of science fiction that hits the same buttons this does (time travel stuff would work as well as alternate-universe stuff, methinks). Jeschonek is not going to dumb down his themes, nor will he take pauses to explain things, and while this is a very good thing for the novel’s readability factor, I’ve read more than a few reviews that imply the book is off-putting for this reason. Your mileage may vary; mine certainly did. But then, I am also pretty well outside the age range to which the book is marketed to (I have a daughter in said age range), and have a great deal more reading experience under my belt to draw on and reference. So, I have to heavily qualify my recommendation for this book. Which is unfortunate, because I flat-out loved it and would prefer to give it the highest of regards. However, its seeming vertical-market-ness demands a bit of reserve. (But still, for the love of Fireskull, read this. Now.) ****