Humanity’s Way Forward (The Edge of the Known Book 3) by Seth Mullins finds the band Edge of the Known finally getting a real foothold in the music industry, and Brandon, their leader, as conflicted as ever. The band wins a battle of the bands, gets favorable reviews and a record deal, and with it massive success. All the while, Brandon is continually tormented by his troubled past, his girlfriend, Janie, as well as deaths that find their way into his life. The book is a meditation on artistic creation, fame and fate. It’s a novel, and a series, that asks big questions about life and art, which may not have firm answers, but the journey of discovery is as important as the destination.
In a way, Humanity’s Way Forward, and really the entire Edge of the Known series, is like a rock opera in written form, as Brandon struggles with the messiah complex stardom can bring – not just with performers, but the audience as well. This isn’t the sinister messiah of “The Wall” or even “Tommy” – Brandon hardly jumps head-first into fame; every moment is a struggle. As with previous books, there’s heavy emphasis on maintaining integrity in the face of so many seductions, so Brandon is a deeply inspiring character, as well as a sympathetic one.
This messianic tone is especially apparent because Edge of the Known’s music is so spiritually-directed. Taking its cue from shamanism, magic permeates this book, where musical creation is tantamount to alchemy. This is not just in how Edge of the Known conceives their music, but how the book is written itself. Mullins writes like a man possessed – as if he’s driven by the same muse that’s driving the band he writes about.
Some may find Mullins’ loftiness a bit over-the top – it’s just a band, some may counter. The titles of the books (which are also titles of the band’s albums) suggest a work of philosophy or social criticism, rather than a series about a rock band. However, one cannot discount the mystery of the creative process, as well as the unifying power of music. Mullins’ fearlessness in exploring deep themes about artistic creation is what makes these books so moving and affecting. The series will inspire you to create.
That said, the book may stress philosophy more than story in too many places – especially at the climax, which happens rather abruptly, and could have used less pontificating and more dramatic build-up. Even so, this is the most exciting book in the series, as the band’s rise makes for riveting reading. There’s a lot of interesting detail about the machinations of the music industry, in addition to Brandon’s philosophy about life and art.
For those new to this series, this book could work as a standalone, and you’ll more than likely want to start the series from the beginning. Brandon’s voice, and Mullins’ writing, is addictive, as it’s so unique and expansive in its scope. Humanity’s Way Forward is highly recommended for anyone in a band past or present, who will recognize much of Brandon’s internal struggle. The book should not just be limited to musicians, however, as the rise to stardom could translate to any creative endeavor, and Brandon’s perspective on life is universal.
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