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Spotlight on: Deep Blue by David Niall Wilson

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Deep Blue by David Niall Wilson David Niall Wilson, Deep Blue

Brandt and the rest of the makeshift band he plays with on occasion have lost touch with their music. Brandt wears Harlequin make-up that separates him from the others and makes him look like "a dead clown," and lead guitarist Shaver "only [lives] for the solo." Their individual pain is so great, it gets in the way of making good music together.

One night, Brandt, after getting so drunk he leaves his apartment keys behind, is drawn by the soulful sound of a harmonica into the presence of its source: an old black man named Wally with the secret to the basis of rock and roll: the blues. Brandt wants to learn to play like that, but the only way is to channel the pain of the world through his guitar. "No way outta the pain 'cept t'rough da music," Wally says.

The catch is that he cannot choose when to play; he is at the mercy and whim of the world's pain. The next night, Brandt plays the concert of his life, going into a semi-trance and stunning his bandmates with his skill. Soon, similar events affect the other band members in ways they don't totally understand, but that manages to bring them back together to find a way to be a true band once again.

That author David Niall Wilson (My Eyes Are Nailed, But Still I See) knows music inside and out is evident in Deep Blue. He knows the mathematics, the history, and the emotion. His story of a band that has lost its core is often disturbing, but always touching. The relationships that form the core of the band are dealt with deeply and admirably. Wilson obviously also knows a thing or two about band dynamics.

I would have liked a little more consistency in transitions (it's impossible to predict whether a new chapter will change the point of view or continue the previous one), and sometimes it seems that the story itself doesn't quite know where it is headed, taking a good number of forked paths along the way (including a subplot that offers another perspective on the sineater), but everything eventually comes together again into a natural conclusion.

In any case, the scenes with the music are what will keep you reading. Wilson paints liquid rainbows when he describes each band member's experience behind his or her newly-rediscovered instruments and skills, and if this were all that the book were about, it would be enough. But there's plenty more going on in Deep Blue to satisfy the author's fans (who are used to him not sticking to genre conventions) and to draw in plenty of new ones.

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