This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.
Author Dan Schell found me and asked if I’d be willing to review his novel, The Road to Fluffer. It’s about a journalist, he said, a rock journalist, who is assigned to go on the road with this band, Numb Skull, and follow their adventures as they try to gain enough exposure and experience to gain a sponsorship from an adult energy drink.
Sounds perfect. It got better, too, once I started reading and realized that the Fluffer of the title is, indeed, the adult energy drink. Fluffer. As in the slang term used in the adult movie industry.
The sly laughs don’t stop there. The band is named Numb Skull. Its lead singer is named Chester Drawers, and he can’t say anything without tacking on an “All right!” at the end.
Slam dunk. This is one fun read.
But it’s not without its flaws. Lead character and music journalist Darrell is a nice guy. Maybe too nice. He sort of floats through the novel as his marriage crumbles. He’s not fighting for it, nor is he fighting for his job with the sort of passion one would expect when faced with losing one’s marriage AND one’s job. You gotta salvage one or the other so that, at the end of the day, you’ve got SOMEthing, right? Maybe not, but it’d have been nice to see a bit more fight out of our lead character.
The band bumbles along in a very real way. They’re inept, but also a bit too passive. They say they want this, but their passion isn’t shown. And there’s not much at stake, overall: the band either will or won’t get the sponsorship, but nothing bad will happen if it doesn’t happen.
That said, this is a greatly fun read for anyone who loves the Rock Fiction genre. Schell’s got the chops and the details to bring life on the road to vivid life and give the reader a taste for what it feels like to be out there, a struggling band who can’t make it from Point A to Point B on what they’re earning each show.
There aren’t a lot of glimpses of this part of the road. It’s like writers: most people assume that if you’re in a band that’s touring, you’re raking in the bucks. The truth is far from the dream, and at the end of the day, that dream is what fuels so many of us to keep going. Schell’s managed to let us empathize with the members of Numb Skull while educating us, all at the same time.
A West of Mars Recommended Read, simply because it’s a fun one, even though it stopped short of being great.