Before you read this novel, you should ask yourself, Does that sound like the kind of novel I would like?, because honestly, the title tells you a whole heck of a lot about the book. I don’t feel like I need to spoiler the fact that the story starts off with confirmation that Buddy Holly is, in fact, alive on Ganymede, but I figure I should make it clear that if that doesn’t sound like your kind of story, you’re probably better off avoiding it all together.
Avoiding the novel would be a shame, though, because while it’s certainly a science fiction/1950s music novel, it’s also a pretty good story about strength, perseverance, fate, and relationships. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you’re familiar with Denton’s work (Lunatics and Laughing Boy were, too), but if you’re not, and if the title of the story appeals to you, this is as good a place as any to start.
I really like the way that Denton approached the story. The story is ultimately about Oliver Vale, a young man who was conceived the night that Buddy Holly died, and had an odd relationship with his mother for much of his life. When Buddy Holly broadcasts a message back to Earth (from Ganymede, just in case you weren’t paying attention before) saying that Oliver has the answers, it sets off a series of chain reactions that gets him on the run, trying to find the answers that Buddy says he has. By the time the story begins, Oliver’s mother has been dead for a few years, and the story is told partly through sequential flashbacks, and partly through events that are taking place in the present. The flashbacks fit in somewhat with what’s happening in the present time, and I thought it was an effective way to tell the tale.
This was Denton’s first novel, but you’d be hard pressed to find the usual foibles that one might find in a first novel. The good guys are likeable, the bad guys are despicable, and then there are the characters who fall in between the two extremes, and you feel for them about how you’re supposed to. The plot comes together well, and the writing has the right strength and depth without coming across as arrogant or overly intellectual. It’s the perfect blend of form and function, with a loopy premise that makes sense and works within the confines of the story.
Just remember: If you’re not sure what to make of this novel, ask yourself what you think of the title. That should tell you enough to get you started.