The Vortex Winder is a novel that comes with its own music soundtrack album by the rock band Lighthouse XIII. Book / CD combo $25.
Origins and Genre – After the release of Waves Upon Waves, Smith decided to combine his music and literary interests by writing a novel to go with the band’s next album.
The idea of a novel / album combo has loose precedents in the rock ‘concept albums’ of the 1970s, and in music-themed novels like An Equal Music by Vikram Seth or High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. The Canadian band, Rush, has also done a soundtrack for a novel called Clockwork Angels, written by an author outside the band. Yet rarely has there been an entire album and novel created by one person.
While the novel has elements of fantasy, comedy and the psychological thriller, Smith rejects these genre terms in favour of ‘magic realism.’ The book is set in the real world of the present day, but uses fantasy elements to illuminate that world and allow more scope for creative invention.
The Vortex Winder has been described as a ‘modern fairytale.’ The story begins with a random act of kindness when fading rocker, Jimmy Brandt, saves the life of an insect. The insect turns out to be an advanced being who rewards him with the ‘Vortex Winder’, a wish granting device. The Vortex Winder is able to tap into Brandt’s psyche and awaken latent special powers he never knew he possessed. Yet as in many such tales, the powers rarely work out quite as planned, usually leading to surprising consequences.
Brandt uses the powers to revive his music career but the Vortex Winder leads him down a long, winding road from a love affair in Germany and a harrowing stint in a Thai prison to accidental fame through a viral video on YouTube. Trailed by his mentor, Iolango, and arch enemy, Elijinx, Jimmy Brandt pursues the events of his life to a stunning conclusion.
The Vortex Winder has been described as ‘an ambitious but superbly executed fusion of music and literature … In years to come, The Vortex Winder may come to be seen as the spearhead of a new genre.’
J. Loughhead said that ‘from humble beginnings, the story draws you ever deeper towards a memorable end … one of the most entertaining books of the 21st century.’
The album features many songs that reflect the events of the novel. In fact, several songs – Trade Winds, Black Art, Oceanus – share names with chapters from the book. The heaviest song on the album is named after the main villain, Elijinx.