My Favorite Band Does Not Exist actually consists of several different stories that are ultimately the same. We're first introduced to teenage boy named Idea Deity, who has created a fictional band on the internet called Youforia. This includes tour dates, band member bios, song lyrics, etc. — to the point that the "band" starts developing a rabid cult following, thanks to all the hype and mystery that surrounds them. In addition to this wildly clever Internet start-up, Idea also suffers from a chronic illness known as Deity Syndrome, a psychological condition that has him convinced that he is actually a character in a novel, and that he's going to die in Chapter 64. Along the way, Idea meets a girl with a face tattooed on the back of her head who helps him on his journey.
Meanwhile, Reacher Mirage is the lead singer and genius behind a band called...Youforia. Reacher is mildly obsessive-compulsive, and chronically unsure of himself, so much so that he will not allow the band to release music, or play any concerts, until he himself is "certain" they are ready. Needless to say, he is none too pleased to find out that there is an "official" Youforia website that includes actual song lyrics and biographical information about the members of the band. Reacher — with the help of his girlfriend, who also a tattoo of a face on the back of her head — is determined to find the creator of his band's website.
Reacher and Idea have other things in common besides female accompaniment with tattoos of faces on the backs of their heads. They have both been reading a fantasy novel called Fireskull's Revenant — and since our dual protagonists are reading the book, that means we get to read the book as well. While the inclusion of chapters from Fireskull's Revenant — presented like old, worn pages of an actual different book, complete with a different font and byline — was interesting, it often felt intrusive, as it continued to pull me away from the stories of Reacher and Idea. (or so I thought...[!]) In the end, once I fully understood its role in the story, I was pleased with it; it served its purpose well, even if the leap from rock-and-roll/internet/metafiction to Lord of the Rings-esque battle scenes was jarring.
Admittedly, some readers may have difficulty getting into the weird world of the book. Others might find themselves feeling apprehensive towards characters with names "Idea Deity," or his parents, "Vengeful Deity" and "Loving Deity." This naming convention actually helps to establishes the mood of the story — there's depth, yes, but at the same time, it maintains a tongue-and-cheek quality. Jeschonek is clearly channeling Thomas Pynchon with the naming of his characters, and as a Pynchon fan, I appreciate this.
This tongue-in-cheek quality should add to the appeal of readers who might find metafictional conceits and story-within-a-story fiction to be somewhat daunting. While it gives you as a reader a great deal to think about, it's not necessarily challenging. Jeschonek approaches these high concepts in a simple, comprehensible manner (a skill that one assumes he developed writing licensed novels for Star Trek and Doctor Who) I think this makes the book especially valuable for its target young adult audience, as it could serve as a gateway for readers into Vonnegut, Pynchon, Dick, Ballard, etc. In fact, one of my only complaints about the book is that Jeschonek occasionally allows himself to get too didactic, pointing out things to the reader that should be fairly obvious, especially when characters notice the parallels between their stories. It's a prime example of "Show, Don't Tell," but it might be useful for some readers who are not as accustomed to this kind of storytelling.
Story/ies — 6.4
While I did enjoy the overall story immensely, as well as the strange tales of Reacher and Idea, I didn't expect the LOTR magical medieval fantasy sequences to take up quite as much of the book as they did. Although it is billed as "Young Adult Urban Fantasy," the plot synopsis on the jacket led me to assume that the metafiction/reality-bending aspects were what made it "fantasy" (in the same way that Kurt Vonnegut is "science fiction"), rather than, ya know, guys with flaming skulls and leathery wings battling amorphous knights.
Style - 8.5
Robert T. Jeschonek is clearly a writer with a lot of big ideas and talent, and the way that this novel is told is especially commendable. It shifts across multiple narratives, and ultimately weaves them all together in a wild and original amalgamation. Even though the fantasy chapters of Fireskull's Revenant weren't my favorite, I truly enjoyed the way that the "novel" was presented within the greater context of the actual novel, and was impressed by the way it tied Reacher's and Idea's stories together.
General - 7
Overall, My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is a wacky and enjoyable trip (if not a little esoteric), full of intriguing, imaginative concepts that keep a reader hooked. I read the first hundred pages in a few short sittings, but as the ominous Chapter 64 approached, I couldn't stop reading, and ended up blowing through the 2/3 of the book in one night while I waited for my apple-mango-black-bean chili to cook down (it was delicious). While some of the fantasy/genre tropes of the story seemed out-of-place against the rock-and-roll/internet/metafictional world established at the beginning, I can't fault Jeschonek for his ambition in bringing it all together.
Overall - 7.3
My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is available in hardcover on July 11, 2011.