I have always maintained that no book Robert McCammon could write would ever compete with my favorite of his works, Boy’s Life. I read that when I was a teenager, a time when I very much needed to hear it’s message. Well, I can’t compare that novel to The Five, which, although there are definite similarities, are very different creatures, but I will say that The Five is a work of astonishing power and indeed had a similar effect on me as Boy’s Life did, only twenty years later.
The premise is deceptively simple: A struggling rock band, laboring along on the last few dates of their cross-country tour, in what will most likely be their last time together as a band, come to the attention of an unstable and murderous war veteran who believes the The Five‘s latest music video gleefully disrespects everything he, and his fellow soldiers, have fought and died for.
Inspired by a strange encounter during a stop on the road, Nomad (John Charles), the angst-ridden and haunted lead singer of the band, decides that, as it’s clear the band will be no more once the tour is done (thanks to the announcement by both their manager and keyboardist that they’re moving on to other pursuits), they should write one final song together. Somewhat unenthusiastically, the band agrees, but it soon becomes apparent that the song-in-progress has a lot more significance than they realize, and that forces are amassing in an effort to prevent its completion.
To label The Five a thriller is to do it an injustice, because it is so much more than that. And although it does contain the necessary elements of a chase story, the true power of the novel lies in its exploration of themes that are as old as time and as omnipresent in our lives as the air we breathe. It’s a love letter to music, a study of faith and the human spirit, of darkness and light. It’s an odyssey through life and all it would have us celebrate and endure. It’s about friendship and fear, courage and cowardice. It’s about magic, and destiny, the power of music, and the impact our choices may have on others, whether we realize it or not. It’s about people, the good, the bad, and the lost.
It’s about us.
And it is one of the best books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read.
So, Kudos, Mr. McCammon. Just like The Five‘s “New Old World”, I think this book was the song you were meant to write. And what an incredible song it is.
Note: Special mention should go to Vincent Chong for the amazing artwork, which completely nails the tone and spirit of the book.