Book Review: Rock Bottom by Geoff Baker

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Book Review: Rock Bottom by Geoff Baker

(Ragabond Press, December, 2010)

     I wrote this review in early 2011 once I’d had the chance to read Geoff’s incredibly twisted and entertaining freshman novel, and wanted to repost this since the book is now also available in Kindle form via Amazon.com for the bargain price of $5.99: 

http://www.amazon.com/Rock-Bottom-Geoff-Baker-ebook/dp/B004NNVWTS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1400343306&sr=8-1&keywords=rock+bottom+geoff+baker

     I’m not the kind of person who typically writes reviews, mostly because I have nowhere to publish them. However, I felt compelled to do so for Rock Bottom by Geoff Baker, mostly because from the moment I took it from my mailbox and out of the envelope it arrived in, I couldn’t put it down. Why? This is a book that breaks from the conventions of your typical fiction book. Number one, you’re not going to find a book with such gratuitous usage of profanities. Don’t worry, it’s not like a movie that covers up a weak plot with several sweaty sex scenes, although the book has those as well. Let me not forget the heavy drug usage, heavy drinking, and heavily-flawed main characters.

Shakespeare once mentioned that good wombs can bear bad sons. I would suggest that good books can bear flawed characters. It’s rare to find a book that is devoid of a real hero. Usually an author throws the readers a bone, we’re given a character to look up to, someone whose actions and thoughts tell us what we should think about the book’s events as they unfold. This book doesn’t. The author sets us adrift in a sea of the follies and foibles of the worst monster humanity can create: a celebrity. Actually, let me expand that to a celebrity and all their handlers.

This book focuses on a fading rock star, what a self-involved twit he is, and the employees he makes unrealistic demands of. He, Ian Taylor, has effectively ruined his life because of being famous, but he’s also managed to ruin the lives of those who work the hardest to keep him in fame’s glaring spotlight. And yet, this deluded rock and roller is given a human side by Baker. There are moments when his humanity shines through, mostly when he has a mirror held up to him by the hard times that befall him throughout the book. For all of Ian’s flaws, and believe me, there are many, he is competing for the Character You Most Want to Slap Six Times, Hard award with the other main character, Taylor’s PR man, Peter Forth.

Forth is the one I couldn’t stop thinking about as I was reading, mainly because it’s hard to nail my feelings down about him. He’s part knight in shining armor, part drug-addled, self-destructive loser. Perhaps he is frustrated by the fact that his marriage is falling apart or because it is Ian, and not him, who people worship like a demi-god, but whatever the reason, most of my reading time was spent saying, “No!” when Peter acted in a way that I knew, and I’m sure he did as well, would wind up harming him in the end. Like Taylor, Forth is not a one-dimensional character, which is part of his charm. Despite his redeeming qualities, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with the fact that I found so much in common with him, frankly. But that’s part of the charm of the book. No character is perfect, all of a plethora of flaws on parade, and that’s what makes them so fascinating.

    Rock Bottom is a book that is intoxicating with wit, humor, and plot twists and twirls, but also sobering with philosophical quandaries and moral dilemmas. I often tell my students that you know when a book is good because at its conclusion, you feel like you’re saying goodbye to good friends. I wouldn’t consider the characters in Rock Bottom as people I’d like to be trapped in an elevator with, but I do feel a touch of emptiness now that the story has ended.  As Neil Young said, “It’s better to burn out than fade away,” and this book is on fire.

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~ by Jennifer Dodge on May 17, 2014.

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