Rock Bottom Review
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So many authors write about the wild and crazy rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. But in his debut novel, Rock Bottom, author and “recovering rock musician” Michael Shilling focuses on the cold, hard reality that sets in once the rock ‘n’ roll dream turns out to be more of a nightmare.

Two years ago, LA rockers Blood Orphans were The Next Big Thing. They were wild and ironic—a demented Spinal Tap—and it earned them a lucrative record deal and an opening spot on Aerosmith’s upcoming tour. But while some people saw ironic brilliance in their sick and twisted lyrics, one reviewer labeled them racists—and that was the beginning of the end.

Now, Blood Orphans have come to the close of their unsuccessful tour, and they’re about to play their last show in Amsterdam—most likely to an audience of a couple of bartenders and a few hangers-on.

Rock Bottom follows the four band members and their worn-out, coked-up manager on their last day together. Former Christian rock band lead singer Shane has been in a constant downward spiral. Soft-spoken hippie guitarist Adam is the only one with talent—but no one ever listened to him. Sex-addicted drummer Darlo has just found out that his porn-king father has been arrested. And talentless bass player Bobby’s hands have such a horrible case of eczema that he plays even worse than ever. And then there’s Joey, the perky little blonde manager who has to tell the band that they’ve been dropped from their label.

Shilling holds nothing back in this gritty tale of desperation and discovery. He shows the other side of the rock ‘n’ roll dream: the exhaustion, the competition, the fights, the dissatisfaction, the recklessness, the consequences, and, finally, the rejection. It isn’t about the wild, alcohol-fueled parties, where the drugs are abundant and the groupies are ready and willing; it’s about the agonizing hangover and regret of the morning after.

This darkly humorous novel is both a tragedy and a comedy at the same time. Each character falls apart in his or her own way—but, fortunately, some of them manage to find themselves in the process. They’re heavily flawed and often even unlikable, but each one still has a redeeming quality or two—and, as you read, you can’t help but hope that what’s left of their good sides will win in the end.

Rock Bottom is smart, funny, and brutally honest, but it definitely isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s filled with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll—and, at times, it’s enough to turn your stomach. But, to Shilling’s credit, none of it is glamorized. It’s edgy and rough—and it’s as oddly seedy as the city where it takes place. It makes a fascinating read for the music-lover—and it should be required reading for any aspiring rock star.

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