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TAINTED LOVE by Kevin P. Martin

TAINTED LOVE

By Kevin P. Martin

Pub Date: July 26th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0615675336
Publisher: Keeping My Day Job Press

In this quixotic epic fantasy, every line of dialogue is a 1980s song lyric.

The plot of author Martin’s debut novel is ostensibly about a rebellion against King Bruce, the mad ruler of the Kingdom of Love, but the action of the story is secondary to the conceit that every line of dialogue is lifted from 1980s pop and rock. At first, it’s clever and cheeky, bringing to mind classic tunes and inspiring guesses for some of the more obscure phrases. But as the novel wears on—telling the story of how Michael, proprietor of the Love Shack restaurant, finds himself joining forces with Richard, the errant son of Lord Astley, to save Love from destruction—many of the characters and plot points start to feel like setups for particular lyrics, and the charm dissipates. King Bruce has a desire to be “forever young.” The battle cry of Love’s army is “Chaka khan.” Michael’s beloved is named Eileen, who’s frequently urged to “Come on.” Eileen’s best friends are named Rhiannon and Sherrie, and so on. In the end, this kaleidoscope of references doesn’t add up to a coherent fictional vision. It’s no doubt a tour de force, and Martin is remarkably faithful to his unusual premise to the very end; yet it remains unanswered how all of this rock ’n’ roll material came to coexist with the feudal titles and technologies or what it’s all supposed to say about either the fantasy trope or the music. Nonetheless, even after the strain starts to show, the thoroughness of Martin’s musical knowledge remains impressive, as he fill hundreds of pages with lyrics both popular and obscure. The lyrics-as-dialogue can produce some interesting descriptions: One character observes that the sound of an injured demon is “What it sounds like when doves cry.”

A unique reading experience with a grin-inducing technique that manages to impress even when the execution misses a beat.