Are There Lesbians? Yes
After Kris’ ex-bandmate Terry sold out to become The Blind King she’s been working in a dead-end job in a dead-end town. But then The Blind King comes back for one last tour, and this time Kris might just be able to bring him down, but first she has to get the band back together. In another dead-end town, Melanie clings onto the hope that The Blind King has given her, and his new show has given her the kick she needs to finally get out of the place. Part road-trip, part zombie movie, all metal.
tw: sexual assault, suicide, forced drug-taking, medical horror, dismemberment
Nothing makes me sadder than the fact that Grady Hendrix is a dude. He continually writes the most complex and inspiring female leads, it is a true tragedy to me that buy buying his books I am not supporting more female writers in the world of genre fiction. This isn’t to say that I don’t think men shouldn’t write women, in the same way that I think that being white or straight shouldn’t stop you from writing POC or queer characters – hell, everyone needs more representation and I can never get enough of a good thing – but there is something about finishing a really good book filled with truly awesome female characters and remembering that it was all written by a man that leaves me feeling a little empty.
After that delightful preface I hope you are still hanging around to read the rest of this review, because We Sold Our Souls is probably one of the most inspirational reads I have read in a long while. It is a love song – or perhaps an entire concept album, devoted to the various ways in which music, particularly metal in this case, can change our lives. Perhaps my favourite moment was when Kris starts complaining about how bad Koffin’s music is and Melanie fights back, calling her out and responding in a powerful way that sometimes it isn’t about how good the music or the lyrics are, or whether or not they’re “derivative” but sometimes you just hear a song in the right time and place and it resonates with something inside of you. And sometimes that is enough to save your life. I am in love with metal music, all music really, but metal has a special place in my heart, so this novel resonated with something deep inside of me. It reminded me of when I was younger and it was like all these bands with their yelling and dissonant-yet-melodic-riffs were saying the words I had in my heart but couldn’t force out of my throat. If you have ever had that experience with any kind of music – not just metal – then this is the book for you.
Personally my favourite little throwback mention was the way in which the song “Dead End Justice” by The Runaways becomes a secret language for Kris’ band Dürt Wurk. I thought it was particularly funny that Hendrix talked about the band as if there hasn’t been a movie about The Runaways starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning which is also a queer wonderland. The novel refers to plenty of bands old and new – The Runaways, Black Sabbath and even one of my favourites, Kamalot, and works many famous stories about these bands into the story of Kris and Dürt Wurk. This isn’t to say that you need to brush up on your metal history before you start reading, but it’s definitely worth checking out all the music mentioned. My only real problem with the novels constant music mentions is that there isn’t any actual recordings of the feature album “Troglodyte” to listen to! Please get on that Hendrix!!
We Sold Our Souls is, at heart, an anti-capitalist “fuck the man,” sort of book. It is a novel that speaks out for the little guy, the downtrodden, the women kept out of communities by aggressive male gatekeepers. It also allows that sometimes we do find a love for things that may have “sold out,” and that just because it is bad, or specifically, bad for you doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, just that you should do so carefully and think about how you do it. The warning against the mindless consumption of media doesn’t feel quite as fleshed out as the possibly-unintentional mirror the novel holds up to fanboys. There is no mistake that the men in We Sold Our Souls are dangerous. Almost surprisingly there is no rape (though you are often left to fill in the blanks if a woman screams), and what limited sexual assault there is, is not even remotely supposed to be titillating – it is merely a prelude to being torn limb from limb in a Bacchic display of wildness. The Ancient Greeks thought that music, as well as drink, could bring a person to another state, one where they became possessed by the spirit of their god. We Sold Our Souls works on a similar principal except the dark gods of the novel do not possess or give, they only take, leaving empty vessels behind.
With all the female characters appearing in the novel, it is surprising that the only lesbian featured, turns up at the end of the novel. But boy what an entrance it was. Even after her introduction she is barely featured, but she is such a charismatic and vivid scene-stealer that it is hard to forget her. The best part? In a novel with so much (violent) character death, she gets to go home and have sex with her super hot girlfriend. I think I should start a petition that all horror novels should have a no-nonsense butch who saves the day and gets to live.
Given my history with Grady Hendrix’s previous works, I wasn’t sure what to expect from We Sold Our Souls. What I got made me gag, tear up and keep me guessing all the way to the last page, where my heart swelled so large I thought it would burst.
I received an ARC of We Sold Our Souls from NetGalley in return for an honest review. We Sold Our Souls is due to be published on 18 September.