cover image The Backup

The Backup

Erica Kudisch. Riptide, $19.99 trade paper (376p) ISBN 978-1-62649-371-1

Anthony Brooks has a Ph.D. in musicology, but academia isn’t hiring. His uncle, a musicians’ agent, gets Anthony a job as the handler for Nik, a popular rock singer. Nik claims to be the Greek god Dionysus, a role that he plays 24 hours a day. Bolstering this claim, his concerts have a tendency to turn into orgiastic exhibitions at which there are occasionally suspicious deaths. Anthony doesn’t believe in Nik’s divinity and finds himself not just managing but having to live with the temperamental musician, as the initial dislike between the two develops into outright battle and then into something far more complicated. Kudisch’s brilliant debut is erudite and powerfully descriptive about music, psychologically fascinating in its cat-and-mouse game between the flawed and three-dimensional characters; the writing is consistently charming, witty, and shatteringly emotional, unafraid of going very dark places. Nik is a Dionysus whom the ancient Greeks would have recognized, and Kudisch doesn’t shy away from depicting the shattering emotional damage that comes from encountering a god, especially one who can’t tell the difference between a blessing and a curse. The fascinating mix of raw power, modern popular culture, and potent interpersonal drama will leave readers hungry for more. (Feb.)