Thursday Book Talk: “ShapeShifter: The Demo Tapes – Year 1”

Shapeshifter : The Demo Tapes -- Year 1 by Susan Helene Gottfried, Paperback (ISBN 0557023440 / 9780557023448)
Fiction, 132 pages

Book description (from back cover): A band’s demo tape is intended to introduce listeners to their music. Likewise, this collection of short pieces allows readers into the fictional world of Trevor Wolff and his band, ShapeShifter.

Originally published online between April 2006 and March 2007, The Demo Tapes — Year 1 brings together the moments that parallel — but never encounter — Susan Helene Gottfried’s debut novel, Trevor’s Song. Arranged chronologically and with introductions to each, this is a must-have volume for anyone who’s ever wanted to hang with a rock band.

Comments: I have to be honest about a couple of things here. ShapeShifter is the kind of band that I’d probably know existed, and I might like a couple of their songs if I encountered them, but I’d be unlikely to seek out or own much of their music; I’m just not into the head-banging metal stuff. My musical orientation is toward more melodic sub-genres, and songs that I can sing along with. Having said that, the idea of “hanging with a rock band” has long fascinated me, and it’s the hard-rocking groups that best capture this mystique (and one reason why Almost Famous is one of my favorite movies) – although, being honest again, I’d never be one of the “I’m with the band” girls. I might work with the band’s manager and be lucky enough to a favorite object of teasing by the guys in the band, but that would be as close as it got.

Susan Helene Gottfried launched her blog West of Mars – The Meet and Greet as a place for “outtakes” – short scenes and sketches – involving the characters and situations in her not-yet-published novel about a rock band called ShapeShifter, Trevor’s Song. The novel hasn’t made it into print yet, but its first official companion/prequel has, as Susan has assembled and published the first year of outtakes in this book. While the outtakes make fairly random appearances on the blog, Susan has assembled them in chronological narrative order here, and has written additional introductory material for each sketch, giving more context about how it fits into the overall story of ShapeShifter. This is not a novel in itself – while the stories are placed in sequence, they don’t have a plot thread tying them together – but if you haven’t met the band before, it’s a great way to do it.

I have met the band – I’ve been a regular reader at Susan’s blog for months, although I accidentally discovered we had a prior connection through BookCrossing – but this helped me put some of the pieces of their story together…and I want more. I want to fill in more of the gaps, I want more of the backstory, and I even want to know more about their music although I don’t think I’d like it much. I don’t know nearly enough about who Trevor, Mitchell, Daniel and Eric are, let alone Kerri, Lyric, Chelle, and the other women in their orbit, but I know that they are characters that intrigue me, and since I’m a fan of character-driven fiction, that’s what matters. Susan is already at work on compiling The Demo Tapes: Year Two, and with luck all of this will help move the master plan – publication of Trevor’s Song – forward. I hope it happens; I definitely want to spend some more time hanging out with this rock band.

This was a fast and fun read, and if it’s the kind of subject matter that appeals to you, visit The Meet and Greet and check out a few of the outtakes for yourself. Once your appetite is whetted, you can order the book through, direct from the publisher as a hard-copy or e-book, or do what I did – buy your own copy directly from Susan herself, and ask her to autograph it too!

Visit more reviews of the book and interviews with Susan at She Is Too Fond of Books and Diary of an Eccentric; Susan is also keeping her own database of reviews at the Meet and Greet (which I hope will soon include this one!)
If you have reviewed this book, please leave your link in the comments or e-mail it to me at 3.rsblog AT Gmail DOT com, and I’ll edit this review to include it!

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  • I’m glad you liked this one. Susan is such a great part of the blogging community – I hope her books has great success.

  • Thanks for linking to my review! I added your link to mine.

    I agree that the book makes you want more about these characters. I felt I got to know Mitchell the best, but I can’t wait for more about the others.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  • Susan’s Demo Tapes sounds more interesting all the time.

  • Of course I’m going to add this to the reviews page, my dear! It’s a review, right??

    You’ve hit on a big thing for me: getting to know the girls more. I promise you there’s more of Kerri in Demo Tapes: Year 2. Lyric, too. But doing even more with them is on my wish list. Stay tuned; I’m doing my best!

  • Kathy (Bermudaonion) – That she is. Have you gotten your copy yet?

    Anna – Thanks for the link back! I had the same perception, which was interesting since I had thought Trevor was the center of the ShapeShifter universe. I wonder if that means we have to wait for the novel for it to be all about him?

    Serena – Maybe it’s time for you to “join the Trevolution,” as Susan would say :-).

    Susan – Thanks for adding this post to your review page. I had a great time hanging out with the band, if I didn’t make that clear. Glad to know that there’s more to come about the women – we will eagerly await!

  • Florinda: Perhaps you are right…gonna have to get Anna’s review copy!

  • Sounds like a band I would like. Actually, when I saw the name at first I thought of the fictional band Driveshaft from Lost. Sounds like an interesting book.

  • Serena – I’m sure she’ll be glad to loan it to you :-).

    Mike – Musically, they probably would be more your speed than mine :-). And yeah, I can see why you might think of Driveshaft – but now you’ve made me miss Charlie all over again.

  • I might have to check this book out. I’ve seen a couple of reviews of it, but I just don’t quite…get it. I haven’t visited the blog yet either though, so maybe that would help.

    Almost Famous is a good one! I think the scene on the bus with Elton John’s Tiny Dancer playing is one of the best musical/scene pairings ever. (I’m sure there’s an official word for that-anyone know what it is?) It just perfectly captures…something, something that exists in that one moment that everyone experienced and it will never quite exist like that again.

  • Dreamybee – Explore Susan’s website and the outtakes on her blog, and see if that intrigues you enough for the book. It worked for me :-).

    I absolutely love that movie for a number of reasons; the scene you mention is just one of them.

  • I had been wondering about this book and am glad to see you post about it, Florinda. The band sounds like an interesting cast of characters. I do hope the author is able to find a publisher for her book, Trevor’s Song. It sounds like it will be a good one.

  • Wendy (Literary Feline) – I hope so, too. The outtakes, particularly when taken together like this, really make me want more of the story.

    BTW, Susan will be guest-blogging here on Monday!