Review by Paul H Birch
A good story with the rock scene as its general background? That’s a rare beast. To which Eviscerated Panda, A Metal Tale puts its paws forward asking to be taken off the endangered species list. “This is a niche novel and proud of it,” reads the PR blurb to Sarah Tipper’s self-published novel. Less a two-fingers up at society, more about how wearing panda-eyed make-up and liking loud songs about death doesn’t make you a bad person: Think original rock and roll movie The Blackboard Jungle as chick-lit wearing leather and lace.
Eviscerated Panda are a thrash metal band, newly formed and looking to play their local club, then take on the world. Lead guitarist Phil Winter was once a face on the local Reading scene, now he’s got a receding hairline and is worried about the amount of porn he’s watching. Paul on the other hand is the most laidback drummer going, blissfully married and trying for a kid at the story’s outset; having previously done alright playing in cover bands this is a risky time to take on new ventures. With the remaining Pandas younger and involving former school friends Cleo and Jennie it’s very much an extended family as they plays gigs as diverse as Dudley and Brighton, sometimes getting paid and occasionally getting laid. There are some well-constructed sex scenes; including a threesome, by the way. At its heart though it’s about bonding with people beyond just the music and there are readers who will emphasise having experienced similar events.
However, using a third person narrative distances readers, and a more extensive use of dialogue to define characterisations, develop plot and add intrigue (if only a “Will they won’t they start dating/get back together again/agree on doing a Slayer cover?”) is very much needed. Too often events are related in an extended synopsis format, with every character ticked off and accounted for. Editorially, I would have suggested Tipper made Cleo the main focus from the outset. After all, leaving a job in a biscuit factory to get part-time work on the local newspaper and as an environmental communications officer then falling for an older guy who’s the lead singer in a band from Swindon is a story in itself.
Available in print and as an ebook, Sarah Tipper has already written a sequel, Eviscerated Panda: Back in Bamboo. I hope she continues to develop this series, and progress and grow as an actual author beyond simply storytelling, not least because I worry about original bass player Jim. He walked out halfway through this novel, leaving the band and a nymphomaniac ex-girlfriend… And it sounds too much like what was the story of my life!
6.5 out of 10