Title: Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volumes One-Five
Author: Cecilia Tan
Pages/Word Count: 1000+ Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Coming out and coming of age in the days of AIDS, MTV, Reaganomics, and Just Say No.
Daron Marks is a young guitar player with a dream, make it big like the guys he grew up idolizing in New Jersey–or at least escape his dysfunctional family. He makes it as far as music school in Rhode Island, and the stages of Boston beckon. But it’s hard to succeed from the closet.
Review: I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of online fiction—original serials, fanfic or otherwise—nor have I ever read anything by author Cecilia Tan before running across her name and this series on Amazon. When an author is willing to offer a free book to introduce readers to her work, though, I’m bound to give that novel a look regardless of whether or not I’ve read, let alone heard of, the author because, hello, free! Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume One is what you might call one of life’s happy little reading accidents, the kind that happens when you take a chance and it pays off big time.
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is Cecilia Tan’s magnum opus to sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. This serial began as an online rockumentary, which is currently clocking in at well more than 1,000 pages of storyline, and Volume One is the free installment that begins the journey of a young musician in the late 1980s. Told in the first person from guitar prodigy Daron’s point of view, this series chronicles his life in music, from his earliest days of playing onstage at the age of thirteen, through a turbulent relationship with his father, to his band Moondog Three and their imminent rise to fame.
Cecilia Tan has done with Daron what every author hopes to do—she has disappeared inside her character. Ms. Tan didn’t write this book. Daron Marks wrote this book and used Cecilia Tan as the vessel through whom he tells his story. There is no discernible trace of the author’s voice in this series, the writing so skillfully engaged and executed that it’s impossible to believe Daron doesn’t exist somewhere in this world, and the level of detail in the music, the music business, and the insights into Daron himself—his thoughts, feelings, relationships—never once feel manufactured for the sake of simply telling a story. Daron lives, eats, and breathes music, and it’s through his narrative and lyrics that we learn of his pain, his fear of not only his own sexuality but also his fear of others discovering he’s gay. Through his prose and lyrics, we discover Daron’s needs, his wants, and his eventual conflict with his connection to his band’s lead singer, Ziggy Ferias.
Ziggy is the serpent in Daron’s garden of Eden. He is temptation and he is poison, and he is, in spite of the fact that Daron has another option in a journalist named Jonathan—who represents everything sane and safe and stable in a relationship—the drug I want Daron to get lost in and O.D. on because for that short time, Ziggy and Daron could burn so bright and so hot and crash so epically together that the pain of it would be exquisite to witness. Ziggy represents everything Daron both loves and loathes—he’s beauty and talent and genius wrapped in a shell of head games and indifference and narcissism—and their mostly off again relationship is made all the more poignant because they love and care about each other so much, even if they don’t have the words to admit it to each other, or the courage to embrace it. Rather than the author using their lack of communication as a predictable device to milk the Big Misunderstanding for all it’s worth, though it only serves to illustrate how emotionally stunted these two men are and how much growing and healing they need to do.
Daron is nothing less than a phenomenal character. His story is being told in hindsight from an indeterminate time in the future. His is a voice that’s intelligent, charming, and at times heartbreaking as he struggles with his sexuality, vowing at once to be celibate because wanting men is wrong, then giving in to his needs all while fearing his secret will be discovered. The emotional impact of his eventual coming out to a few trusted friends is then made all the more powerful by those fears which affect his moods and, at times, his music. There is so much anxiety over his being gay that Daron is unable to allow himself to explore the way Ziggy makes him feel, especially apart from the sex, and his frustration and anger coupled with Ziggy’s seeming apathy in the beginning toward what they do together in private sets the turbulent tone of the series, forcing Daron, for the sake of self-preservation, to seek sex from everyone but Ziggy, which seems only to sharpen Daron’s need for what he has forbidden himself.
This series is not all angst ridden relationship drama, however. While it’s certainly left me feeling like one big exposed and abraded nerve, it’s so much more than an exploration of Daron’s relationships, and I have to say it’s difficult not to be impressed and awed by Tan’s exposition of not only the music business but also by her skill in bringing each character to life on the page. There are no flat, stilted, one dimensional treatments of the main or secondary role players in these novels. Each of the characters, even in their smaller roles, serve the plot and keep the book moving along from one scene to the next, one gig to the next. Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is literary fiction in its most exemplary form, an exposé that reveals Daron Moondog’s (née Marks) evolution as he begins to come to terms with who he is, and, in the end of the final published book (thus far), finds the courage to begin poking at his feelings for the man who turns him inside out and leaves him feeling raw and vulnerable.
As addictive as any books I’ve ever read, as heart-rending as any series I’ve ever loved, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is, if not perfect, the quintessential compilation of music, drugs, sex, love, lust, and pain. My one fear as I got farther along in Daron’s saga was that the author would fail in her effort to keep this storyline fresh and vibrant and emotionally encompassing through its hundreds of chapters. I’m happy to report she damn well did. Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is a brilliant feat in fiction, far too luminous for this simple 5 star rating.
You can buy Daron’s Guitar Chronicles: Volume One here: