Book Review - The Master Planets by Donald Gallinger
I was contacted by Donald Gallinger recently, asking if I'd be interested in receiving a copy of his book The Master Planets. The description and premise was such that I was interested enough to agree. Within about 25 pages, my "I need to be doing..." list was completely shot, because I didn't want to put the book down. That surprised me a bit, as Master Planets isn't necessarily an action-driven novel. But the characters were so real that I found myself emotionally drained at the end.
The story starts with Peter Jameson meeting with an Israeli ambassador who is asking him to attend yet another memorial tribute to his mother. He's tired of being a figurehead for who his mother was and what she did during World War II. From that meeting, Gallinger takes you back to Peter's youth and traces his path to where he finds himself now. Jameson was always convinced that he was meant to be a rock star, and with a few friends he formed a band called The Master Planets. Through a combination of skill, stubbornness, and a little luck, The Master Planets start a meteoric rise up the record charts. But lurking in the background is Peter's family. His mother has a secret past that has never been revealed to the kids. His father is relatively detached from the family, although he cares for them very much. Through a series of events, Peter finds that his mother was a partisan resister during the war, and was responsible for saving thousands of lives of Jews through her actions. But she was also responsible for the gruesome deaths of many German soldiers, and indirectly for the deaths of countless others who were killed in reprisal for her assassinations and raids. Her suicide and possible link to the death of a German war criminal starts to gnaw at his creative efforts, and the band's success starts to stagnate. When an Israeli general contacts him and starts to reveal the full story of his mother's past, it sends Peter and all those around him into a tailspin. He has to figure out how to reconcile his mother's past with his current life, and no part of that life is unaffected.
I was surprised at the way this grabbed me, as I'm normally more inclined to shy away from introspective novels. It's not that there's no action in The Master Planets, it's simply a case of the characters interaction with their past is what drives the story and plot. The book was written in first-person form from Peter's point of view, and I immediately found myself immersed in his life and emotions. A reader who is more contemplative will likely get even more out of the book than I did. But regardless of which type of reader you are, The Master Planets will take you on an emotional ride that you won't quickly forget.