Book Review: Destroy All Monsters by Jeff Jackson

Destroy All Monsters: The Last Rock Novel (Jeff Jackson, 2018) – A murder epidemic spreads across Arcadia, where musicians are the victims.

Verdict

Music has the power to connect, as it does to destroy. It is in our nature to do the same, and Destroy All Monsters puts it all on display.

5/5

Review

Arcadia is suffering an inexplicable wave of murders at concerts, and the epidemic has strangely little to do with the politics of gun violence. The horror is however real. Jeff Jackson’s prescient terror tale sees the sanctity of music getting tainted for reasons unknown.

Suddenly, rock n’ roll loses all of its meaning – joy, liberation, pure adrenaline – as it becomes nothing more than a harrowing death trap. At the centre of it are young musicians Xenie, Shaun, and Florian, whose sanctuary no longer feels safe. What else then do they have to hold onto?

Somehow I knew each act of violence was a prelude to another… Whenever I thought about the bodies of the dead musicians, my mind went blank. Was there some kind of message?

Destroy All Monsters tunnels deep into the tumultuous inner journeys of many, pulled under by the uncertainty of what they are looking for. The rock novel can be flipped like a vinyl record; Side B begins when Side A ends. There, a shorter alternate history unfolds, revealing the psyche of the killers and musicians alike.

Both sides see the latter on complex journeys after a kind of understanding – of who they are, what they have done, and what they had been through. Empathy seems to be what ultimately threatens the monsters, which are not just the ones wielding the guns and knives. They are instead, the invisible demons that live and claw from within.

She still glides through his dreams, her pockets leaking birdseed, singing the same three notes in a halting rhythm, and he keeps forgetting she’s gone, believing for a few tangible moments each morning he’s waking into an unbroken world.

It is a landscape of anxieties that the teens trudge through. Some make it through, some don’t. The powerful novel does not settle for easy. After all, it is about bereavement, heartbreak, and grief.

It is also a metaphor perhaps, for our collective desire for belonging, ostensibly to the music scene. But it is not just the love of music we long to share. It is also the indignation and frustrations that life brings, and ring loud through the blazing riffs. Beneath the surface, we are all just trying to reach out for that tenuous connection to each other, and in doing so, learn to survive.

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