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Oscar Gordon, October 1, 2022

This story is an interesting look at the life of a rock star in the ‘80s, but with a twist. The business, the personalities, the creative process of producing music all ring true, and make the story interesting in itself, although that’s pretty much just the surface. And the twist, where Joe the famous rocker switches personalities with a regular guy, leads to situations for the characters that are amusing, confusing, complex, satisfying, sad, ecstatic, and not always what you’d expect. Some of the characters reminded me of people that I knew. But what really kept me glued to the pages (well, not literally) was that I kept finding unexpected gems of humor, wisdom, craziness, and occasional deep insight into inexplicable human behavior. Then later I read a comment in the bonus material on the author’s website (I recommend checking it out) which said pretty much the same thing. When I read, I like finding clever things below the surface, and I suspect that I haven’t found them all yet. Some books I read more than once and Xylene will definitely be one of those.

Why Xylene? I’m an insatiable reader and my major fare is SciFi, but I also have many other interests. I’ve read books and watched documentaries on rock bands from the ‘80s, ‘70s, and ‘60s. So I was interested in a book about a fictional ‘80s band, especially if it had an unusual situation in it to stir things further. Besides, it is a cool name and caught my attention. And of course, in the end, the bad people get what’s coming to them, often in creative ways. Hey, this is entertainment and I want to feel good at the end of the story. Otherwise I’d just watch the news.

My only disappointment, although slight, was not at all with the story itself, but just with the format available. I have grown so used to reading e-books mostly on Kindle on my iPad or sometimes my iPhone. Decades ago, I’d carry a paperback in my back pocket and satisfy a few minutes of my reading addiction when stuck in a line, a dentist’s office, auto repair waiting area, or one of those chairs so thoughtfully placed outside of women’s department store dressing rooms for the guys. Now my phone fills that function, and it also has a huge library and bookstore inside. I can read my iPad at night without waking my wife as I used to by using a reading light or turning pages (she’s a very light sleeper). But it was sort of nostalgic reading a paper book once again, although it’s one that won’t fit into a pants pocket. I had to go back to using a paper bookmark, and the packing slip worked for that. It even had some arcane and cryptic printing on the back, which I suspect indicates the paper was repurposed from the author’s day job.

But it does have something that an e-book doesn’t: a unique cover with an unusual silky slick texture that absolutely adds to the overall reading experience. Cool cover art and a perfect deep color of purple.
(Please note that 'Xylene' is now available as an eBook)
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