The Armageddon Rag, by George R. R. Martin

A lot of George R. R. Martin’s (of Song of Ice and Fire Fame) older work has been re-released lately. And, having read The Armageddon Rag, I think I’m going to go back for more.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this contemporary fantasy novel. It was a lot deeper than I had expected. The back of this book advertised a story about a band whose music may have the power to, as their last album title says, wake the dead. And the plot does roughly follow this plot, but this book turned out to be so much more than that.

For me, this book is about hope and disillusionment. This book was originally published in the early 1980s, and the main characters are all survivors (some more than others) of the 1960s movements. Some characters have since gone mainstream, some are still on communes, some have gone crazy. But in the book’s present, most of the characters have given up their hopes and dreams from the 1960s. The first half of this book, before the music plot takes over, is a profoundly sad book.

Even though I am pretty young, I can relate to the characters. In my present, there is a hugely unpopular war in Asia going on, most of the people I know are uninvolved or disaffected by the current political system, we’re experiencing a time of huge societal and technological changes. The big difference I see, though, is that people my age are too apathetic to try and change the world. Sure, there are people who want to make changes–but there aren’t enough people to start a movement. I don’t know what happened to make us this way (I have ideas, but nothing definitive), but I felt a kinship with Sandy, who spends a lot of this book wondering what happened to the high ideas.

The music plot, which mostly happens in the last half of the book, almost seems like an action-filled coda to the rest of the book. I loved the first half and, while the second half held my attention, it seemed like a weird counterpoint to the emotion of the first half. The first half of the book revolves around Sandy as he travels across the country to reconnect with his friends from the 60s. The book moves back and forth between the present and the past and sometimes the differences are so poignant, that it’s hard not to choke back a sniffle or two.


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