We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As a music-obsessed writer who loves the horror genre, I really, really want to love this book and give it a five-star review. Alas, like so many other rock 'n' roll narratives, Grady Hendrix's We Sold Our Souls falls a bit short of brilliance. Despite its clever premise and adoring homage to rock history, Hendrix's novel feels more like Friday the 13th than Almost Famous - and resonates more like KoЯn than Black Sabbath. And yet, while Hendrix hasn't quite written the heavy metal masterpiece that the world deserves, We Sold Our Souls is a lot of frivolous, fantastic fun.
The general conceit is this: what if all those archetypal rock stories of artists selling their souls in Faustian deals with the devil aren't farfetched fantasies? Enter Kris Pulaski, the washed-up, has-been lead guitarist for a now-defunct 1990s metal band, Dürt Würk. Unhappily working the nightshift as a hotel receptionist, Kris only has foggy memories of what went wrong with Dürt Würk on a fateful contract-signing night - and why the lead singer went on to become a nü-metal mega-superstar without the rest of his bandmates. Kind-of spoiler alert: as the novel's reader can infer from the title, it involves supernatural contracts with shadowy figures. Filling in the blanks is part of the fun, though, so I won't go any further with spoilers. Let's just say that the old "getting the band back together" tropes have never been quite as gory or malevolent. Imagine the Blues Brothers, but with far more blood, suffering, and death. 'Nuff said.
All flaws aside, We Sold Our Souls might have one of the best book covers in recent history: it's meticulously modeled after an issue of Rolling Stone, right down to the looping cursive of the title font and the fictional article titles that provide hints of key character names and plot points. The bottom of the cover even mimics the adhesive address labels that magazines print before shipping issues off to subscribers. If only the rest of the book matched the quality of the cover, this book would be a rock & roll masterpiece. Alas, We Sold Our Souls only ventures as deep as a shallow grave - leaving the reader wanting a more substantial burial.
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Mild-mannered librarian by day… and a mild-mannered rock & roller by night.