Soundscape by Royce Flippin is a smart fast-paced thriller, set against an unlikely backdrop of great rock music and shifting political tension. Homeland Security and the Culture Hygiene Police bring to mind George Orwell’s legendary dystopian world. However, the year is not 1984 but 2024, and here you can be arrested simply for possessing illegal rock music recordings. The threat of nuclear war has enabled a corrupt government to take hold, and the future appears to rest on the shoulders of physicist Blake Hawkes and his allies.
From the get-go, Flippin grabs the reader’s attention, with a flowing written style and great timing. There is always a sense of purpose to the action, and his persuasive tone urges us to read on. The scene-setting of the Prologue seems to come straight from a reporter’s pen, with a sharp style and a great eye for detail. It is easy to understand the plight of the young people putting their lives on the line to try and bring about change; showing contempt for the ruling state whilst continuing to listen to their rock music, despite the consequences.
Flippin’s writing bears the mark of an experienced author, and readers will feel confident in his hands. Dialogue is snappy and believable throughout, and sympathy for our hero comes easy. Situations always develop and resolve, and there are no unsatisfactory loose ends. The descriptions of settings within the book such as the dark refuge of the Urban Zone encircled by its high walls (attracting graffiti such as ‘Freedom will not be silenced’) or the craggy wastes of the Carrizo Badlands, are atmospheric and challenge the reader to uncomfortably enter the author’s fictional world.
The front cover is very effective: courageous Blake Hawkes stands between the Red and Blue states, the all-American hero, on the run, always under the radar, the eternal survivor. His character feels as though he has one foot in the past, and one in the future – this makes him the perfect catalyst for everything that happens all around him. At one point, Hawkes recalls John Lennon’s comment, ‘Elvis died the day he went into the army’ and he counters, ‘Not this cat…I’ve got too many lives left.’
Any rock fans will love this book, and no doubt some prior knowledge in that area will help the reader to fully appreciate the plight of the Blue State under the Rock Ban. Chapters bear titles such as ‘When the Music’s Over’ and ‘Hotel California’, and song lyrics (including those from the author’s own original songs) are affectionately quoted throughout. The sometimes in-depth scientific passages when Hawkes considers his theory of ‘random convergence’ may also lose some readers, but in the end these are an essential part of the intricate fabric of the book.
The exciting story and original ideas in this book combine to create a satisfying experience for any reader. Soundscape succeeds in weaving a strong storyline out of futuristic political intrigue, rock music, and quantum theory. Perhaps an audio book in the making?