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Gig by James Lovegrove

Mik Dyer is a rock star.  Kim Reid is his number one fan.  Mik has had enough of the shallowness and emptiness of the rock-star lifestyle and wants to end it all.  Kim becomes his willing nemesis, eager to do anything to fulfill her idol’s wishes.

The two have never met, but Kim knows what Mik wants from her.  His lyrics, and a drug-induced vision, have given her all the instructions and inspiration she needs.

As Mik’s band God Dog return to their hometown for the final gig on their latest tour, there’s more than just songs on the set-list.  The audience is in for a night they’ll never forget…

Gig by James Lovegrove, the latest e-book release from Anarchy Books, has an interesting premise. The same story is told in two books, each book covering a different character’s point of view. The two narrative strands begin separately, but gradually start to interweave with one another as they head toward the same moment.

Kim and Mik are essentially the alternate sides of the same coin. Mik appears to have everything you could ever want – fame, money, talent. Kim meanwhile, is living in a grubby squat. Barely existing, she survives by dealing drugs to rich kids. Both of them are adrift in life, missing some key component of their character, each are flawed in some way. Each book elegantly picks apart their personalities and prepares the reader for their inevitable meeting. Of the two, Kim seems especially well realised. I suppose it is easier to relate to her situation. Who hasn’t obsessed a little about a public figure? On the other hand Mik is so consumed by his past he appears to be bordering on alien and otherworldly.

Gig is an eclectic mash-up, there are so many ideas bouncing off one another it almost defies classification. From my somewhat limited perspective, I found elements of mysticism and magic mixed liberally with psychological horror, as well as nods to urban fantasy. I’m sure that when others read Gig they will latch onto their own interpretations and insights. This is one of the novels most unique points – everyone will get something different from the experience. At its core, however, it is a story of two people who have lost their own identities and are desperately trying to reclaim themselves. Lovegrove’s writing explores the nature of duality and the complexity of obsessive behavior. It is utterly compelling stuff. Put it this way I received my copy of Gig yesterday morning and by seven thirty last night I had read both books.

It is hardly a surprise to discover that this is a novel that works on more than one level. As a technical exercise, Lovegrove obviously delights in playing with the language he is using, there are many palindromes and volvograms scattered throughout the text. They highlight again the dual nature of the story. As I read, it became a bit of a contest to try and spot them all.

Gig may sound dark, and I think it is fair to say that it is, but there are also some splendidly unexpected laughs in there as well. In this author’s vision of an alternate Britain, music fans are an incredibly serious bunch. So much so for example, that fans of The Beatles have splintered into two separate groups (spot another reference to duality there) The Earlies and The Lates. Each group is convinced that the band was better at the time period that they prefer. Their pitched battle on the streets of Rotor City was a comic highlight. Kim’s attempts to get an all access pass to see God Dog also provides some darkly funny moments.

Splitting the book into two distinct parts is an intriguing concept and I was surprised how well it worked. The quality of the writing is so good that once I finished part one I was compelled to immediately start part two without hesitation. Initially I had to make a decision about which half of the novel to read first. On a whim I opted to follow Kim’s story and then Mik’s. I now have to admit an insane curiosity about how much this decision has skewed my understanding of their characters. Did reading about Kim first make me more sympathetic to her character? Did my perceptions of Kim make me feel less empathy towards Mik? If I had decided to read the books they other way around would I feel differently? This reading experience has certainly left me with a lot to mull over. I think that I will let some time pass, a year or two perhaps, and then revisit Gig. Maybe next time out I’ll read Mik’s story first.

Gig is available from Anarchy Books from Friday 16th September.

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