Scale: A Novel by Keith Buckley

Scale A Novel

# of Pages: 241

Time it took me to read: 3 days

# of pages a day to finish in a week: 35 pgs

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Ray Goldman is a conundrum of a man. He strives his whole life to make something of himself, following the paths of good role models and bad ones, as he tries to make it in the world of music. This book has everything that you could want in the fictional biography of a musical artist: drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Ray starts down a path early in his youth that brings him to a point where he explores the ideas of love, nihilism, and the motivations behind creating art.

This book was really a big leap out of my comfort zone. I haven’t really read much of what I’d consider “literature” since I left college, but this definitely fits the the definition of a “great American novel”. My friend Sam and I were talking about books recently, and we decided that we’d both try and branch out a little bit. This book, Scale, is by the lead singer of one of Sam’s favorite metal bands “Every Time I Die”. Sam told me that he didn’t do a lot of reading, but he liked history, so I gave him And I Darken, so hopefully he will enjoy the fictional retelling of Lada (Vlad) the Impaler.

I have to say, I’m pretty surprised at how much I liked this book. Typically, I really am not into books that are cerebral and character driven like this, but I found that I was really drawn into the writing style. This book was written in such a way that I was sort of forced to take it slow (I know, reading a whole book in 3 days doesn’t sound like taking it slow, but if this was a YA book under 250 pages I could have read it in 4 hours).

I’m not sure that I can explain very well why I read it slow, but it wasn’t entirely because the book was very heavy on big vocabulary and light on plot. It was more that even when the story was outlining something fairly lighthearted, I felt like I had to take a pause between sentences or paragraphs to digest a little bit. And normally when I’m enjoying a book I don’t stop for anything. I just chew and chew and don’t stop to swallow or sometimes even to breathe. But reading this book can be accurately represented by how I actually eat: one small bite, then a drink of water, then a bit of conversation, a deep breath, then another small bite and repeat. Scale requires you to take a bite, wash it down, then think about it a bit before diving back in. And, though reading those kinds of books has always felt like homework to me, I found this book a refreshing taste of the world outside of YA.

Buckley also made a really interesting move with how he designed the timeline of this story. The odd chapters were the “present day” of this story, while the even chapters start in his late teen years and lead up to how he became the man that he is in the odd chapters. This stylistic choice kept the book fresh and interesting.

This book also has a great cast of side characters, all of whom were very well written, but none of whom I liked very much on a personal level. In fact, I don’t think I liked the characters at all that much. And maybe that’s the way its supposed to be? I’m really not sure, this book really gives you a lot to think about, and it’s one of those books that makes me super sleepy after reading it for a while. It’s a lot to process.

After reading this book, I also did a bit of research on the author, because I had a few theories that I wanted to check out. Keith Buckly is a pretty interesting guy. He’s married to his high school sweetheart (which I love), and this is his first novel. He definitely drew from some of his own life experiences when writing Scale. Ray Goldman went to Virginia Tech, and so did Keith Buckley. The other events that he borrowed from his own life I won’t reveal, cause spoilers, but Ray Goldman was certainly an interesting way for Buckley to explore certain aspects of his own life as a career musician.

I’ll go over briefly what it was that brought this book down half a star from a perfect score, though I will begin by saying that this bit is highly based on my own personal experiences and bias, and doesn’t reflect negatively at all on the book itself. My friends Chris and Sam give this book a perfect 5 out of 5, and they aren’t wrong. The reason I docked this book half a star was because a) there were some parts of it that went over my head, and b) I found it to be just a teensy bit pretentious. I will add a however, because the parts that didn’t make sense to me after trying to read them a few times over probably made perfect sense to somebody else, I just think that my life experiences and my worldview don’t always allow for a lot of philosophical thinking. And the pretentious part? Well, I think that all books that are character driven and could accurately be described as a “great American novel” are a bit pretentious by definition. There was a lot of big vocabulary words thrown about in such a way that it almost seemed like he was trying too hard to be deep. But again, that is merely an opinion, and I don’t think that either of these things should discourage anyone who might be interested in this book from reading it.

I can’t say that I think that everyone would enjoy this book, but I do think that it is a well-rounded, well-written book overall, and even I, someone who ever so rarely ventures outside the folds of the YA genre, enjoyed it very much. So I feel like anyone who enjoys books with very realistic characters, a great pace, and heavy philosophical and nihilistic overtones, or really any of those traits, should give this book a try.

I am going to, once again, forsake the “If you liked ____, try ____ section of this review, because honestly I don’t think that I’ve read anything remotely similar to this book that I would actually recommend to others.

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