The Book of Luce by LR Fredericks – Book Review
by Barney Bardsley
The world of sci-fi and fantasy fiction has never really appealed. Suspension of disbelief is just too much for my already over-taxed brain. So this book was a strange departure from habit. Why was I drawn? It was the back cover blurb that worked its magic… “David Mitchell meets David Bowie in a mind bending literary quest… Rock star. Messiah. Freak. Who is Luce?”
The idea of a shape-shifting, gender-bending messianic creature, flying through my imagination, was one – as an ardent Bowie fan – that I found rather appealing. And The Book of Luce is strangely compelling, with its odd narrator, who – mind blown by the sixties, and in particular by her encounters with eponymous rock star Luce, plus a trainload of psychedelic drugs – takes us by the hand in her later years, and goes in search of her long lost hero-ine, dragging the reader in her chaotic androgynous wake.
Weird stuff happens. All the time. Buildings combust. Strange simulacra appear in unexpected places, and haunt the pages with their eerie menace, their murderous designs.
There are trips to the desert – concerts in broken down warehouses – and characters from the margins of society are drawn in from all sides, given centre stage, and made to shine, in all their unexpected, self harming, mutilated glory.
This was a rather fantastic read, until about halfway through, when my attention started to wander, and I could never get it back on track again. Why? For one thing, the book is way too long. It is 500 pages, when 300 pages would have been more than enough. Also, the quest for the elusive, magical hero at the heart of the story, becomes repetitious and insubstantial. I longed for one central scene, where narrator and the fantastic Luce come properly face to face: where the nature of the compulsion, the power of his/her magnetic allure, is made manifest. But it never happens.
This is a book of chimera, of myth and make believe. It is a head trip. A chase without a satisfying capture. And even though something truly shocking and unexpected happens to Luce in the end, it still doesn’t feel real or convincing. The book, like the characters within it, keeps slipping through your fingers.
Fredericks is truly insightful about the nature of fan worship – on the powerful bond between a superstar and their adoring public; and she writes an alluring exposition of androgyny in all its seductive appeal. But as a satisfying story in its own right – although it takes off with a mighty bang – The Book of Luce never really comes in to land.
One is left feeling strangely cheated and abandoned. As if turned away by the bouncer at the night club door, where Luce him or herself, is just about to take to the stage…
‘The Book of Luce’ by L.R. Fredericks is published by Hodder Paperbacks, £8.99, ISBN: 9781848543362