September 14, 2010
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
These days, many of the books I most enjoy are recommended by friends, authors, and, surprisingly, booksellers. A multitude of booksellers' reading suggestions arrive daily by Twitter and bookstore blogs, and I often find the recommendations tailored to my literary tastes. When Brooklyn's WORD bookstore (which has yet to disappoint me with its Largehearted WORD weekly book picks) recommended David Macinnis Gill's YA novel, Black Hole Sun, I immediately added it to my reading list.
David Macinnis Gill's Black Hole Sun is a smartly written, entertainingly over the top dystopian science fiction novel, filled with action and clever dialogue that should appeal to teen boys.
Brews and Books wrote of the book:
"If there were ever a young adult book with teen boys squarely in it’s sights, Black Hole Sun is it. Take the space merc combat of Mass Effect, throw in a bit of Mad Max vehicular combat, add a dash of Red Faction Guerrilla and stir in some Iron Man tech, and you’ve baked a cake pretty close to Gill’s book."
I play music while I write. Sometimes, it's the same song over and over again ("Rehab" ran on an infinite loop for four days when I was revising my first novel). Other times, I listen to certain bands or styles of music. While I was writing Black Hole Sun, I realized that a lot of grunge and alternative bands were popping up in my playlists, especially ones that evoked a sense of dread. It's not a big surprise, then, that one reviewer called Black Hole Sun "grunge dystopia," a description that I really like Also, I'm not the least bit ashamed that I've sung most of these songs on Rock Band and have never gotten five stars.
"Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
"It's hard to believe that there's nobody out there"
Black Hole Sun is set 400 years in the future on a terraformed Mars. Although people can live there, the planet is a harsh, lonely place to live. The atmosphere is barely breathable. The ground is orange, iron-laden hard scrabble, and the inhabitants make Any Rand look like Mother Teresa. People are hard to trust, and there are many things that can trip you up, hurt you, or eat you. The lyrics evoke the feeling of isolation that I was looking for.
"Man in the Box" by Alice in Chains
"I am the man in the box"
The title itself is a microcosm of how the main character, Durango, feels about his life. He's boxed in by everyone's expectations, and it's suffocating him. He would like to chuck it all and live a somewhat normal life, but he's both a soldier and the son of a wealthy, powerful man, and there's no getting away from that. The opening riff of the song, with its mix of vocals, guitar, and special effects sets a great tone for the story, as well.
"Heart-Shaped Box" by Nirvana
"I've been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks"
For some reason, this song has always reminded me of swimming in polluted water. It helped set the tone for a scene in which Durango and Vienne, his second in command, must rescue two kidnapped children. The scene is gritty, dark, and tense. It also takes place in a sewer.
"Hunger Strike" by Temple of the Dog
"I don't mind stealing bread/From the mouths of decadence"
Durango has a well-defined sense of justice that doesn't always abide by the rules. He'll take on a lost cause because it's the right thing do. He'll turn down money, even though he and his soldiers are poor, and he'll take food out of his own mouth to feed the hungry. This song pretty much sums up his attitude. Who doesn't love the mix of vocals?
"Forsaken" by David Draiman
"We are forsaken/We're the last of our kind"
The lost cause that Durango takes up in Black Hole Sun is agreeing to protect a group of miners from the Draeu. The miners live on the South Pole of Mars, cut off from civilization, abandoned by their government. The air is too cold for them to live on the surface, so they have to stay underground. I wanted something to set the mood of living in deep mines, cut off from light and the rest of civilization.
"Blow Up the Outside World" by Soundgarden
"Nothing seems to kill me, no matter how hard I try"
This song struck a note with me as I was writing the novel. Most of the characters—both the good guys called Regulators and the bad guys called Draeu--are tough, resilient, and a little too anxious to put themselves in harm's way. It also created kind of a "us against them" vibe in my mind.
"Vaseline" by Stone Temple Pilots
"It isn't you, isn't me/Search for things you can't see"
Most of the action of the novel takes place in the mines and the miners' underground city. The enemies move through darkness like invisible monsters, and it's Durango's job to fight them. I love the guitar in this one, too, along with the driving beat.
"The One I Love" by REM
"Another prop has occupied my time."
On the surface, this is a love song. Scratch the surface, and you find something more menacing, which makes it perfect for Eceni, the beautiful but bloodthirsty villain of the story. I've described her as an assassin ballerina because of love dance, her gauzy costumes, and knives she hides in her clothes.
"11:59" by Blondie
"Today could be the end of me/It's 11:59, and I wanted to say alive."
Blondie's Parallel Lines was the first album I ever bought, and this song has been stuck in my head for decades. The beat of 11:59 is new wave pop, but the lyrics have a sense of desperation that reflected the miners' mood the night before the Draeu attack. They try to keep their spirits up externally, but they know what's coming.
"Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden
"Won't you come and wash away the rain"
I know, it's a no-brainer, right? It's the title of the novel. The working title was Hell's Cross, but since my novel was about a guy who sold his soul for a Cadillac, I thought it best to avoid Hell references. There is actually a black hole sun in the book, an ice cave that the miners use as a source of sunlight, which their bodies need to function. There are probably more meanings in the story, but that's not for me to say.
David Macinnis Gill and Black Hole Sun links:
Brews and Books review
Girls in the Stacks review
Jawas Read Too!
Largehearted WORD review
Presenting Lenore review
Voracious YAppetite review
Wilmington Star News review
Claudsy's Blog interview with the author
The Enchanted Inkpot interview with the author
For the Love of YA interview with the author
Inkpop interview with the author
The Pageturn interview with the author
Texas Sweethearts interview with the author
Under the Green Willow posts by the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists