I’ve thought in the past about how cool it would be to be in a rock band. Imagine being young in a group like The Beatles where you don’t just wake up to fame and adoration but your every song is writing another chapter in the glorious history of music. Vik Rubenfeld’s Conquest tells the story of four young guys who form a band and find themselves hitting the big time, but with so many pressures for rock groups can they stay together and remain successful?
The novel is told from the perspective of the bass player Reid Taylor. By luck he auditions for a band led by Barry who is the lead guitarist and leader of the group. The drummer is Clay who Reid dislikes and fears will lead the group to ruin. Finally, there is Link the enigmatic singer who ties the music of his three band mates together with his vocals. The quartet form Conquest and though they begin small they soon begin to rise to prominence, recording an album, enjoying no.1 singles, and taking part in the luxuries of the rock star lifestyle with the temptations of drugs, alcohol and sex never far away. However, will Reid’s fears about Clay prove right?
Reid begins the novel having come out of a relationship and decides to audition for a band. He’s a great bass player and is soon recruited to join Conquest. He has a good relationship with Barry but the drummer Clay is a problem. In a long-term relationship with Leah, Clay has no issues about ignoring his girlfriend or being unfaithful to her. In many respects there is a divide between the group. Early in the novel Reid meets Kristy who he falls in love with and tries hard to remain faithful to when he’s on tour. Barry meets a girl he brings on stage called Risa and the two of them remain inseparable. While Clay has left Leah at home, he sleeps with groupies and fans, as does Link who has no desire for a serious relationship.
Though there are conflicting personalities the quartet are capable of overcoming their differences and producing great music. Over time they pen classic songs which leave audiences mesmerised and with their fame comes money, rich homes and lots of partying. While Barry has Risa with him, Reid has to endure months away from Kristy and he is torn about the life he leads. On the one hand fame and fortune are great, but not being with Kristy hits him hard and the regular flirtations of groupies do not help his loneliness. With one album completed Conquest soon move onto their second work along with touring but the wheels are coming loose and tragedy is not far away.
Conquest is a very quick read, more a summary of the band’s rise and fall really. I did enjoy many elements of this but for me the ending was far too abrupt. It was a very tragic conclusion and there is an air of inevitability when rock stars live fast as some of the members of Conquest do. Somehow the end didn’t fully work for me. While the tragedy was acknowledged Reid was able to find many consolations which seemed somewhat selfish and cold. The novel could have been longer and dealt with a more gradual breaking apart of the group before its hard hitting ending.
Conquest is an okay account of a rock group’s rise from humble origins to global superstars with the many vices and temptations being on tour can bring. The novel suffers with being too short and ending too suddenly in my opinion but rock music fans may well disagree. The ending is apt in the respect that anything good can very quick end.
(Book source: reviewer received a copy in exchange for a fair and honest review)