THE ARMAGEDDON RAG by George R.R. Martin


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Simpleminded, heavy-going nostalgia for the Sixties-rock counterculture--gotten up as lurid melodrama, with a murky mixture of psycho-whodunit, conspiracy-thriller, and (in the feverish, limp final chapters) vague occultery. Novelist Sandy Blair, who was a counterculture journalist back in the 1960s, agrees to investigate a murder for his old, now-commercialized underground paper Hedgehog: Jamie Lynch, slimy bygone rock-promoter, has been killed up in Maine, his heart cut out! Could this be connected to Lynch's old band "the Nazgul," a favorite of Sandy's? Yes indeed. The body's found on a bloody Nazgul poster--and on the anniversary of the Nazgul's final West Mesa concert in 1971. . . when lead singer Pat Hobbins was killed by a sniper, leading to crowd-panic fatalities. So Sandy tracks down the three surviving Nazgul band-members: a contented New Jersey bar-owner (whose beloved bar then burns down mysteriously); a pathetic has-been, playing lousy music in Chicago; a Santa Fe family man, still aching for a comeback. He also visits a few of his Sixties chums--with sex, laments over America's loss of '60s values, anger over assorted sell-outs, and several shrill, overdone encounters. (An old draft-dodger pal is being kept virtual prisoner by his rightwing father.) But Sandy eventually realizes that the villain behind the killing is rich, renegade radical-terrorist Edan Morse, who is planning a reunion/tour of the Nazgul--complete with a living replica of the dead Pat Hobbins and apocalyptic, crowd-riot material: "We will seize the bloodtide, and in its wake we will have a new world." Seduced by Morse's lethal sidekick "Ananda," ambivalent Sandy becomes PR man for the comeback tour--slowly realizing that some demonic force is at work. (The kid impersonating Hobbins is possessed during performance.) And, when history threatens to repeat itself at West Mesa, it's Sandy who resists the demon, destructive force. . . clearing the way for a dubious happy ending all around. Unfortunately, hero Sandy is too self-righteous and relentlessly adolescent to take seriously--so his long, talky socio-cultural thrashings fall flat (despite some amusing wiseguy dialogue). And Martin, who managed to create subtle chills in Fevre Dream (1982), falls to make any aspect of the suspense here--the conspiracy, the demonics, the concerts--convincing or scary. The result, then, is a busy, ambitious hybrid--too shallow to engage thoughtful Sixties veterans, too pretentious to please thrill-seekers, but energetic and flashy enough to keep a fair-sized audience reading.
Pub Date: Oct. 21st, 1983
ISBN: 0553383078
Page count: 379pp
Publisher: Poseidon/Pocket Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1983


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