A veteran fiction author highlighting the Bay Area underground scenes, Jeffrey Vernon Matucha returns here with book one of two following a new punk character, Skye Wright. Skye is sober, working the program, taking care of a deceased friend’s cats, trying to rescue the addicts in her friend circle, and working her way up at the cool record label/studio where she’s employed. And that takes care of the “Rise” part of the title, anyway. First things first; the writing in this book, for the most part, is crisp and well done, moving the action along without bogging it down in too much unnecessary language. The internal monologues Skye has throughout accurately reflect the feelings that develop when you find yourself aging out of a scene that you felt defined you while still loving the music and friends that drew you in in the first place.
As well as the aging punk characters are drawn, (and one has to assume Matucha knows plenty of folks going through exactly this transition in their adult lives) the love interest for Skye is unfortunately completely two dimensional and wooden. He is a “civilian,” a sobriquet for a normal person, an aspiring college professor who dresses in beige and barely hides his contempt for everything Skye loves in her life. This could have created the tension the early part of the novel needed (before the “Fall”), but Clark comes across as a completely unbelievable square in 2022 America. He’s never heard of Hunter S. Thompson, Burroughs, is seemingly unaware of punk music or culture in any way whatsoever, and never seems to learn despite Skye constantly reminding him of the same things over and over. (I was glad it finally became a joke in the novel that he needed to be reminded that punks tend to make up their own names to go by.) When the end finally comes between them, it brings nothing but relief, no sadness.
I don’t think I’ll be giving anything away when I say that the back half of this novel goes very poorly for Skye. The “Fall” is the best written part of this book and what will make me seek out part two as soon as it’s available. Skye endures a Job-like series of events that touch on employment volatility, Bay Area rents, and the frightening way life can turn on a dime with one unexpected bill when you live paycheck to paycheck. I found myself completely drawn in, tensely gripping the book, while reading the last fifty pages. I woke up this morning hoping things would go well for Skye, and I can’t think of a higher compliment than that. –Justin Bookworm ([email protected])