George RR Martin's "The Armageddon Rag": Sex, death, blood and rock-n-roll

On, Jo Walton continues to romp through her series reviews of amazing books that she re-read this year: beloved old friends that she can't help but come back to again and again. Today, it's George RR Martin's fantasy/horror/alt history novel The Armageddon Rag — one of those books that I've read about ten times. I even tried to sew a poncho made from neckties after reading it once.

The Nazgul were a sixties rock band. Sandy Blair was a radical journalist in the sixties and is a mildly successful novelist in the eighties. The lead singer of the Nazgul was shot dead at a concert in West Mesa in 1971, and ten years later their promoter gets gruesomely murdered. Sandy takes off to investigate the murder and finds himself caught up in an odyssey to discover what became of his generation. Through the first half of the book he looks up the band members and his own college friends. The second half is considerably weirder, as the band get back together, Sandy becomes their press agent, and things appear to be headed towards a rock and roll armageddon and revolution…

Yet it isn't a sixties nostalgia trip that has nothing to say to anyone who wasn't there. It highlights what was cool and significant in the sixties to show us why there are people who miss it so much they'll do anything to get it back–but they're not the good guys. Good guys and bad guys have always been too simple for Martin. Sandy's lack of conviction is one of the rocks on which the novel is built. The magic is blood magic, it could all the way through be leading to armageddon or resurrection.

Don't get too attached to this decade: George R. R. Martin's The Armageddon Rag, The Armageddon Rag on Amazon