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Roll Over Beethoven…and Just Keep On Rolling

Brian reviews M. Scott Carter's The Immortal Von B., and strains his suspension of disbelief.

Roll Over Beethoven…and Just Keep On Rolling

BOOK REPORT for The Immortal Von B. by M. Scott Carter

Cover Story: Hello, Vienna!
Drinking Buddy: Prost!
Testosterone Level: Rock Me Amadeus
Talky Talk: Suspension of Disbelief
Bonus Factors: Friendzoned, You Know They Got a Hell of a Band
Anti Bonus Factors: Because Science!, Stereotypes
Bromance Status: The Awkward Exchange Student I Befriended and Who Then Stole the Girl I Liked

Cover Story: Hello, Vienna!

So we have a young, handsome rock dude and a caption that says 'What chance has love when you're 200 years apart?'. Yeah, the girls are going to think vampires. But that's okay. Because it's not vampires. I promise.

I get the impression that this is a take on a picture of some famous musician, but I'm not hip enough to catch it. Anyone?

The Deal:

Josie Brunswick's mother was a world-famous pianist. When she dies of cancer, she and her scientist father move to Austria, where he promptly invents a cure for AIDS. This, of course, pisses off the Canadian government, so he has to go to the Vatican to meet with the pope. Meanwhile, Josie throws a party while he's gone. She and some guests end up breaking into her dad's lab and accidentally use his cloning chamber to create a duplicate of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). Not a squalling infant, nor the tortured, middle-aged genius, but a hunky teenaged version, complete with all his memories and musical talent. He doesn't actually show up until the book is about halfway over. Then her father's evil employers come after everyone and they go on the lam.

By the way, did you catch that her father cured AIDS? Somehow, that's a minor subplot.

Drinking Buddy: Prost!

One of these days, I'm going to have to break down an use the Swoonworthy rating. Josie is everyone's manic pixie dream girl: a gifted musician, smart, funny, outgoing, and secretly shy, lonely, and afraid. The kind of girl a guy could fall for...even if he's been dead for two-hundred years.

Testosterone Level: Rock Me Amadeus

Rock and roll? Check. Running for your life? Check. Romantic triangle? Yes. Evil traders in human organs? Yes. Smolder? Oh, yes.

Still...Josie is very much a pawn in this game. She breaks into the lab because someone bullies her into it. She lets her father, Ludwig, and her friend FA8 make the tough decisions. Her passive streak doesn't charm me.

Talky Talk: Suspension of Disbelief

Okay, it's science fiction, I know much of it is speculative. But c'mon. Josie is a gifted musician, and is invited to look at a museum's rare collection of Beethoven artifacts. I believe it. But I can't accept that she accidentally brushes against a two centuries old hair of the composer, and that's what she chooses to place in her father's cloning machine, completely unaware of what it does.

Or that her guitar just happened to once be owned by Jimi Hendrix (something a collector would pay a million for). Or that when she takes Beethoven (she annoyingly insists on calling him by his last name) out to an underground club, Joan freakin' Jett just happens to be playing there.

Or that her father cures AIDS, perfects human cloning, but sadly doesn't complete his cure for cancer before losing his wife.

Bonus Factor: Friendzoned

Josie's best friend is a guy named FA8 (pronounced 'fate'). Though he has the world's most annoying way of speaking, FA8 is her only real friend at the international school she attends. He drives her everywhere, encourages her to get out more, defends her, compliments her, and is her bestie.

Everyone sees it but Josie. Hell, even Ludwig knows the score.

But now's his chance! Now that Josie is running for her life, FA8 has an opportunity to play the true hero. He has all the underground contacts, he's an expert computer hacker, he knows how to live off the grid. Now's his chance. Josie is going to see what was in front of her all along, and they'll ride off into the sunset.

I mean, what could go wrong? It's not like the most gifted musician in history, someone Josie has idolized all her life, is going to show up in the body of a young Adonis.

Bonus Factor: You Know They Got a Hell of a Band

The 'h' is silent.

So what would Beethoven think of the last two hundred years of music? Of rock? Or hip hop? Country? Blues? Josie makes it her mission to introduce Ludwig to all the geniuses that came after him. We're left to speculate what amazing things he'll do with this knowledge.

Also, apparently Ring of Fire doesn't translate well into German.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Because Science!

Okay, most of us only have a dim idea of how most technical things work. I mean, if I had to explain exactly what makes this computer run, I'd be as clueless as Ludwig. However, this book had a lot of outrageous stuff going on, and just kind of explained it away under the magic of science.

Like, why doesn't Beethoven II suffer from the hearing loss that plagued him most of his life? Because science! The cloning machine fixed his ears by filling in the blanks (remember the frog DNA from Jurassic Park?).

And why does teenage Beethoven have all of his memories? Because of the memory gene Josie's dad discovered!

And how does FA8 manage to discover all of the bad guys' plans? Because he hacks their computers. It's easy!

This book is specificially set in 2014, but Josie's father has almost godlike intelligence. It's a bit much.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Stereotypes

Josie attends an international school, which would be a great opportunity to have a diverse cast of characters. Nope, all of her classmates are obnoxious national stereotypes. The English girls are snooty, class-obsessed blue bloods. FA8 peppers his speech with 'blokes', 'chaps', and 'luvs.' The Canadians are all evil, conniving bastards (just like in real life), and the Japanese students are not only all martial arts experts (ALL of them), they speak humorous, broken English.

Bromance Status: The Awkward Exchange Student I Befriended and Who Then Stole the Girl I Liked

You were amusing at first, but got less so as time went on. Quite frankly, I'm kind of sorry I tried to get to know you.

Disclosure: Road Runner press sent me a nice hardcover edition of this book. When I cracked open the bindings, there was no money secured inside.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.