Sold-out concerts, screaming fans, TV shows, Number Ones. This is the rock and roll dream, and the Wonderkids are living it. But something's wrong. The gigs are sold out, sure, but the halls are packed with little kids - not sexy hipsters. Edward Lear, the Wonderkids' lead singer, songwriter, and resident mad genius Blake Lear has always written lyrics as silly as they are infectious. Rock and roll has always been for the kids, right? This is why Blake has no objection when the band is offered a deal with the devil: The Wonderkids will be rock stars, adored and revered. The catch? Their audience will be children. The band takes America by storm, and things go very right - until they go very wrong.
Every month you can find me at the City Winery for Wesley Stace's Cabinet of Wonders, a variety show featuring musicians (himself included, having recorded as John Wesley Harding), authors reading from their work (last month he had Salman Rushdie), and stand-up comedy (usually Eugene Mirman from Bob's Burgers). So I was already familiar with -- and very much a fan of -- Stace's distinctive voice, sense of humor, and encyclopedic knowledge of rock music, from the well known to the most obscure of the obscure (he actually knows Stackridge, although he has an advantage there as a native Englishman).
So I am a ready-made audience for his only audiobook (of his four novels), Wonderkid, a rock novel about the rise and fall of a band that targets toddlers, despite never setting out to write music for kids. Stace has a voice that would be welcome as narrator of any audiobook -- his near-perfect enunciation (except R's), his Michael Palin-esque inflections, his natural exuberance. But reading his own work makes it doubly good, since he knows exactly how he wants it to sound. And so the comic vignettes stitched together to make up the story of The Wonderkids and their leader, Blake Lear, are an entertaining listen.
The rock references are legion. Stace's send-up of the music industry clicks on all cylinders. His characters are engaging (although crafted more for comedy than characterization, notwithstanding the focus on Blake over the last couple of hours). But the story is not fully cohesive. Nevertheless, this is a barrel of fun, especially if you like rock music (that may even be a prerequisite to properly enjoy this book). Stace should not only get his other novels into audio format , he should instruct his agent to get him gigs reading other people's books. And Audible should get Wesley Stace's Cabinet of Wonders onto Channels.
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