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In the best British tradition of the Christmas ghost story, Rickman creates a spookily atmospheric tale of a medieval Welsh abbey which has a history of horrific December deaths and accidents dating from the 12th century to the present. The cast of characters revolve around a group of aging rockers who are the survivors of a disastrous recording session in the abbey studio on 12/8/1980, which also happens to be the day the former Beatle, John Lennon, was shot to death outside his Manhattan apartment building, an event which plays a significant role in the unfolding of the story.
Be forewarned that the prologue and the first few chapters are confusing and quite difficult to follow as the narrative washes between epochs and characters, none of which are familiar to the reader as yet. These characters and events begin to sort themselves out as the book takes on a more straight-forward narrative approach as the book progresses.
Sean Barrett's narration is excellently suited to the material and this audio version is enhanced by riffs from songs purportedly recorded in the abbey sessions.
A wonderfully dark tale for the nights of the winter solstice.
17 of 17 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?
Not the audiobook. Narration is hamfisted and the music to add drama is embarrassing.
If you’ve listened to books by Phil Rickman before, how does this one compare?
Have read others but not listened
What didn’t you like about Seán Barrett’s performance?
It's heavy handed. Groans and screams etc are over acted.
If this book were a movie would you go see it?
Possibly if directed by right person
Any additional comments?
The first 50 minutes of the audiobook is almost unlistenable. It is a chaotic mix of visions and terrible Celtic music interruptions and I nearly gave up on it as I tried to remember why I had liked the book so much when I read it over 10 years ago. It eventually settles into a more traditional narrative but the occasional further bursts of bad Celtic music that are there to "add to the mood" are amateur and annoying.
The Deus ex machina ending to the story is disappointing and does not close all the loose ends that the plot and the final scenes build up to.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
First read this back in the 1990s, re-read it over the years, pestered Isis to bring out audio version. Brilliant then and brilliant now. Foxtara's review is correct there's lots I don't remember reading. But never missed anything listening to Sean Barratt's superb narration. Loved the way the Abbey music is interwoven throughout. The stories of Prof, Moria and Simon continue into the Merrily Series. Hopefully Isis will also publish Man in the Moss, Crybbe, Chalice and Candlelight where other Merrily characters first take to the stage.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
'The Philosophers Stone' were a folk rock super group brought together not just for their musical talents, but also for their physic abilities - to record a concept album in a haunted abbey. Inevitably the experiment goes wrong and the recording ends in tragic consequences - while at the exact same moment on a different continent, Mark Chapman's finger tightens on the trigger to gun down John Lennon. Coincidence? There's no such thing in a Phil Rickman novel. `December' picks up the story fourteen years later when the supposedly destroyed tapes turn up and the band are persuaded to reunite in order to finish what has been whispered about in musical circles as the infamous `Black Album'.
A major part of the novel deals with the dysfunctional lives the musicians have led since the original recording session. Each of them having suffered from the psychic fallout that has tainted their lives in the intervening years. This is where Rickman works like an demented anatomist in reverse, layering flesh and sinew to his characters, infusing them with a life force so strong they could walk among us undetectable as fictional personalities. Music is the dominant driving force in this novel which maybe accounts for the way the tale plays out fluidly across a score full of hair raising Glissando slides and broad chromatic sweeps across the ever changing time signature of the plot. Think of this book as `Phil Rickman the Musical' taking you on his own version of a `Magical Mystery Tour'. McCartney may have been the Beatle who sang about wanting to be a `Paperback Writer' but it's Lennon who gets the last word in this book.
In this form Phil Rickman is unbeatable. A real chart topper in every sense.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful