The Maelstrom Ascendant is the new novel by Duncan Smith, with a soundtrack album by Lighthouse XIII. Book / Album combo $25.
Rocker Jimmy Brandt has given up on his dreams. He’s settled down in the suburbs with his girlfriend and cat – but before long, strange forces tempt him back to his former life.
Jimmy is an idealist, but the success of various corrupt rivals makes him question his values. What use is it being good when it is the evil who seem to prosper? So when his arch-enemy, Elijinx, urges him to turn to the dark side, he is tempted.
Flying high again, Jimmy battle divas, despots, and most of all himself. Yet the higher you fly, the further you can fall. Only an old, forgotten friend can save him. But does he want to be saved?
Explores good and evil in various settings – from an ordinary office workplace through to the hedonistic madness of a rock band on tour.
‘Richly inventive and darkly comic … a marvel’ – Jack Richards.
Magic realism, comedy, psychological thriller, music novel, dark fantasy.
Origin and Themes
Smith wrote The Maelstrom Ascendant as a sequel to The Vortex Winder but has said he prefers the later book ‘The plot is more developed, the tone a little darker, and the psyches of the characters are explored in more depth.
J. Ginsburg describes it as a subtle exploration of the battle between good and evil in each person.
‘The Maelstrom Ascendant is in the tradition of such classic tales as Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, yet handles this theme with greater subtlety. Whereas Jekyll and Hyde are clear opposites as embodiments of good and evil, Jimmy Brandt’s place on that spectrum is far harder to pin down. Some readers may regard him as evil even before his transformation, while others will see him as good even after it has taken effect.
One suspects this is Smith’s intention all along and he is sporting a wry smile during some of Brandt’s more egregious episodes. Yet ultimately, it is another of Stevenson’s anti-heroes that Brandt most resembles – Long John Silver, the admirable rogue from Treasure Island. Smith makes no secret of his regard for this book, going so far as to endow Brandt with a pirate dialect in some scenes. As with Silver, we end up hoping he gets away with it and escapes in the end.
The Maelstrom Ascendant is populated by a host of colourful characters, many of whom show various degrees of villainy. Apart from arch enemy, Elijinx, Jimmy contends with Jacinta Lynton, a workplace psychopath, Ivan De Vangelus, an ambitious band-mate, as well as the mysterious Lombalan trio, Tianjan, Lalitha, and Zambeko.
The book also features the return of on again-off again girlfriend, Sandra, as well as Finzi the wonder cat, who may go down as one of the most memorable cats in literature.
The book has been reviewed as ‘an extraordinary story … one of the most original novels I’ve read in years’ (JT McFlynn), and ‘a fascinating trip into the follies of the 21st century and the human mind … with the music to match.’ (Stef Hammett). ‘Jimmy Brandt is the anti-hero for our times, the one we need.’ (Beck Hartnell).
The Maelstrom Ascendant album contains several songs whose names double as chapter titles. In fact, eight songs – Black Phoenix, High and Mighty, The Price of Dominion, Moonlight Tiger, I For an Eye, Extinction.net, The Ephemeral and the Eternal, and the title track – all come into that category.
Nearly all those songs reflect events in the second half of the book, with songs from the earlier album, Waves Upon Waves, largely reflecting events in the first half.