I am… not entirely sure what I just read, but I enjoyed it wholeheartedly. When I read the blurb and saw ‘Eurovision meets Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ I was hooked, and I’m pretty much the target audience for this book. I mean, come on. Eurovision in space. How could I not?
And that’s exactly what I got – a crazy, dream-like rollercoaster of a book that whipped me around the dips and hills of a washed up glam-rocker and his one remaining band member as they try to create something that will help them save all of humanity. With glitter.
So let me back up a bit, and give you a bit of context.
One day in the near future, as everyone across the world is minding their own business, an alien appears. Just one alien, but it appears to everyone simultaneously, in person or in dreams, and says that they are close enough to the greater galactic stage than ever before, both literally and figuratively. After studying humans, the various species in the galaxy have decided it’s their turn to sing at the Metagalactic Grand Prix, “part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of wars of the past”, and sing for their lives. Ages of war and destruction have led to this, when several different species basically opined – well, this fighting thing isn’t working, so let’s have it be a dance battle instead.
The alien (a “seven-foot-tall ultramarine half-flamingo, half-anglerfish thing” who pulls its voice out of your happiest memories) explains that in order for humans to be allowed to continue as a species, they will need to participate and not come in last. They even provide a list of recommended participants to represent the human race! Unfortunately, almost everyone on the list is dead. The only one left is Decibel Jones (formerly Danesh of London), inventor of the “electro-funk glamgrind genre.” And no, I don’t really know what that is either, but I’m imagining David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust era mixed with Slayer or Metallica and a side order of Jem and the Holograms.
So the world is left with the washed-up Decibel Jones to represent them to the rest of the galaxy, with the only caveat that they don’t come in last in the competition. Coming in anything other than last keeps humanity going, and coming in last will see the human race euthanized mostly painlessly, and, with the Earth clean for the remainder of the creatures living there, room will be made for another possible sentient species at some unknown future date. After viewing some of the past performances, though, Decibel and his bandmate, Oort St. Ultraviolet (more commonly known as Omar Caliskan), are basically hopeless. After all, previous participants have literally set themselves on fire in an exultation of emotion and ecstasy. Not a very good option for a human. We’re pretty fragile.
The story follows Decibel and Omar as they try to come up with something, meet their competitors, and fight with song and glitter to try to save humanity. Oh, and Omar’s cat that now speaks English. The alien thought it was doing something nice!
I will say the writing is not for everyone. Here, let me share some examples:
The story of the galaxy is the story of a single person in it. A cover version, overproduced, remastered, with the volume cranked up way past eleven and into the infinite.
Compared to [cats], humans are joyful rose bushes bouncing through the stars. If you ever stopped napping long enough to escape the Earth, you would sweep across this galaxy like nothing before, an endless wave of carnage. You would hunt our worlds one by one and ruin everything we’ve built. Only your laziness protects us.
Where there’s a wang, there’s a way. (As Decibel is…exploring options with a couple aliens)
You can’t stop people being assholes. They do love it so. The best you can hope for is that some people, sometimes, will turn out to be somewhat less than the absolute worst.
And the entire book is written like this, a jumble of images and metaphors and pop culture references to unravel. I loved it, but at times it’s like trying to read while on medication without my glasses from across the room. It’s definitely a trip, just not one everyone will enjoy.
But it’s just all so much fun! Even when there is no hope for the future of humanity, the glitter-filled ride is so simultaneously upbeat and yet somehow still realistically fatalistic that I was completely hooked. There’s no sign of this becoming a series, but now I need to go and read the author’s other books, starting with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. See you once I catch up with the rest of her work.