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 Amazon.com, 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!