Last weekend I finished reading Rainbow Bridge the last volume in Gwyneth Jones wonderful series of novels, which began with Bold as Love in.2001.
If, like me, you have been following the fortunes of Ax, Fiorinda and Sage, the triumvirate of the Rock and Roll Reich through the five books, you would have been sad that the series has finally finished, but perfectly satisfied with the outcome. I won’t give away the ending here, but will consider the series as a whole.
It is set in a near future England where the Government has dissolved ties with the world and the country is in a state of chaos divided into several radical factions. The action begins at a music festival during what is called Dissolution Summer. The Counterculturals are called to form a new government and it is the formation of this Government and what happens after, that form the basis of the whole series.
The three main characters, Ax Preston, Fiorinda Slater and Sage Pender are all successful rock musicians and become involved in the formation of the Countercultural government. Ax eventually becomes Dictator of the realm. His dictatorship is benevolent and he co rules with consorts Fiorinda and Sage. The relationship between these three is a major theme and it is their fortunes that one is keen to follow in all the ensuing novels.
Far fetched as the premise is, that rock stars could rule a country, Gwyneth Jones’ take on utopian politics makes sense within the context of the novels. And come to think of it, is not all that impossible when you consider that film stars such as Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have both succeeded to high office and country musician/novelist Kinky Friedman is a candidate for the Governorship of Texas. Even here in Australia Midnight Oils front man, Peter Garrett, is a member of Federal parliament.
The five novels that make up the sequence are all titled after Jimi Hendrix songs. Bold As Love, Castles Made Of Sand, Midnight Lamp, Band of Gypsies & Rainbow Bridge. There are many music references throughout, and rock n roll is one way the triumvirate exercise influence over the feuding masses.
The books can be read separately, but to really get the picture – and it is a large one - one really should read them in sequence. Although I have done the latter, it has only been as they were issued. I look forward to reading the sequence in order, one after the other, to gather all the strands that may have escaped me in the final volume.
Within this series the reader is entertained and engaged by the adventures of the threesome and their friends. They are forced to confront some really heinous enemies, not the least of which is Fiorinda’s evil magician father, Rufus O'Niall.
There is sex and drugs and rock n roll, witchcraft, weird science, political theory and even a skewed parallel with the Le Morte d'Arthur. Parts of it are brutal and horrific, but there are tender scenes as well and it’s all written in Gwyneth Jones’ down to earth, colloquial prose style.
The Bold As Love web site has extracts from the novels; art work inspired by the novels, and much more.
The first four books in the sequence had beautiful covers taken from paintings by Anne Sudworth but for some reason Rainbow Bridge has a nondescript cover, which I find irritating, in that it spoils the set . I believe reprints of the earlier novels will not have the Anne Sudworth paintings either, so I should consider myself lucky to have the first four novels with these covers.
Despite such petty concerns, I highly recommend the entire series as an exciting, highly original reading experience.