Reading Thin Air by Storm Constantine

Another review from Vector, first published during 1999

Thin Air – Storm Constantine
(Warner Books, 1999)

Although Dex  vanished mysteriously, inexplicably, several years ago,  his lover Jay has never believed that he died. She has survived incapacitating grief and rebuilt her life, perhaps not entirely satisfactorily, but she has never lost hope that Dex might reappear. And now he has been seen again, not by over-excited fans but by people who knew him well, who want to find him, to recoup their investment, and when Jay won’t play ball, they destroy her life all over again, until her only recourse is to find Dex for herself. All this takes place in the first part of the book, when Storm Constantine describes the twin worlds of the rock musician and the rock journalist, a place of uncomfortable symbiosis in which Dex the musician and Jay the writer somehow seemed to achieve a miracle of accommodation. Constantine depicts this world as a cold, sterile place, echoed by Jay’s gradual discovery, confirmed by his former colleagues, that she really didn’t know Dex as well as she’d thought.

One might expect things to change in the novel’s second part, when Jay discovers that she has, seemingly, driven out of her former, terrible existence  into a strange, comforting, perfect place, Lestholme, peopled by victims of media whim, and where Dex, if alive, remains tantalisingly out of sight. And yet, Jay carries with her the journalist’s hard, fact-driven vision, and is able, only with difficulty, to accept that her former employers, Dex’s former employers, are embroiled in a business which is as much about manipulating people’s emotions for occult ends as it is about record sales and balance sheets. And perhaps because we only reach Lestholme when the book is already half gone, it’s difficult to accept its raison-d’etre as unquestioningly as we seem to be expected to, and exploring it as we do, through the eyes of someone who shouldn’t be there and is not expecting to stay long. Similarly, it’s unfortunate that we have, for the most part, to rely on Dex’s account of his initiation into the darker mysteries behind the bosses of the Sakrilege record label rather than having the time to examine it for ourselves. It’s not that I don’t believe what’s happening in this book, so much as I feel I’m not being given a proper opportunity to test each event before I’m whirled on to the next, and that Jay stands firmly, perhaps too protectively, between me and the action. The result is that a story which promises to be deeply absorbing, in the end becomes as dry and factual as a newspaper report, a situation surely to be regretted .