Format: Hardback novel
I’ve been telling everyone who will listen how much I love Grady Hendrix’s last two horror novels, Horrorstör and My Best Friend’s Exorcism. If it’s possible, his latest novel We Sold Our Souls is even more masterful than his previous works.
We Sold Our Souls is a love letter to metal and the transformative power of music. The protagonist, Kris Pulaski, is nearly fifty years old when we find her working third shift at a Best Western. She used to be a heavy metal guitarist; she was nearly a legend as a founding member of the band Dürt Würk. But everything fell apart one night decades ago when her band mate Terry tried to get her to sell out. She can’t clearly remember what happened that night, but she does know how her life was destroyed in the aftermath, while Terry became the most famous musician in the world. When Terry plans a farewell tour, Kris decides to look up her former band mates to confront Terry and finally get the closure they all deserve.
And that’s when things start to go horribly wrong. Throughout this novel, things just go more and more wrong, until Kris is arguably the most down-and-out protagonist I’ve ever read about. Talk about killing your darlings. With nothing left to lose, she embarks on an epic road trip worthy of its own power ballad to find Terry and put a stop to a truly diabolical plan for one last, massive concert in the desert outside Las Vegas.
Grady Hendrix’s writing has always been fast-paced and high-tension, but the pace of Souls is like the roaring, breakneck opening track off a speed metal album. It’s almost impossible to put the book down because so much is constantly happening. Kris’s situation is forever spiraling down a dark well until it she hits rock bottom. But her love of music saves her when she thinks she can’t get any lower, keeping her head above water every time she starts to drown. The album she and the other members of Dürt Würk created, the last album that Terry made them sign away and buried so it would never be heard, the powerful story that Kris was chosen to tell, keeps her putting one foot in front of the other, leading her to a thrilling, terrifying climax.
Hendrix’s genius doesn’t just lie in the pacing. With each novel, his apparent fascination with the subject matter bleeds through the page, though this novel feels the most authentic, the most genuine, the most like a real labor of love. From the adoring descriptions of Kris’s guitar playing to the chapters named after metal songs, Hendrix’s usual eye for detail makes this novel engrossing, sucking the reader into a world where heavy metal music is all that matters…and the only thing standing between us and annihilation. Plus, the book itself has black-edge pages, making it look like a black box containing forbidden secrets, which is so metal. I love it. These sort of details are why Hendrix’s novels are experiences and not just books.
This novel is obviously perfect for fans of Hendrix’s previous works, but I’d also recommend it for anyone who has ever enjoyed the show Metalocalypse. In fact, this novel actually made Metalocalypse make more sense for me, because of course the members of Dethklok sold their souls for success! It’s really the only explanation for their wealth and fame that makes any sense.
I’d also recommend this novel to any horror fans who are feeling frustrated with our current social, political, and economic situation. Ultimately, Souls is a novel about the sustaining power of art, and how valuable it is in a world that wants to crush us all beneath its boot.
Overall, I give this novel 5/5 metal fans who secretly love Dolly Parton.
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