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Literature / We Sold Our Souls

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We Sold Our Souls is a 2018 horror novel by Grady Hendrix. Quirk Books published it in hardcover with an appropriately black and red cover.

Kris Pulaski discovered metal as a teen, had ambitions for her music and Dürt Würk, a band she played with and loved. Now she's fallen on hard times. Whatever equilibrium she has in destitution is upset when Dürt Würk's former rhythm guitarist, Scottie Rocket, commits suicide and his family is murdered by what appear to be UPS deliverymen.

Tropes in this book include:

  • Being Evil Sucks: Kris doesn't realize that it does, but Terry tells her so when she finally meets up with him - no matter how many souls he gave Black Mountain, it was never enough and he knew what he was doing was terrible and was going to land him in hell. He's also lost the ability to create anything new; any song he writes is either an obvious retread of previous work, total garbage, or both, which for an artist is a level of hell in itself.
  • Being Good Sucks: Kris managed to preserve her own soul but she ended up broke, deeply depressed, borderline suicide and alienated from all her friends and family. And, in the end, she saved thousands of people, but she was either kidnapped and murdered by Terry's goons, or she ran away and lived in hiding for the rest of her life, or she ended up going somewhere else completely.
  • Break Up Breakout: Terry Hunt, Dürt Würk's frontman, is an in-universe example. He's refashioned himself as the Blind King and launched a successful new band called Koffin while the others have been forgotten.
  • The Chase: After Scottie and his family's murder, it's Kris running from Terry, or the real power behind him, Black Mountain, as they try to have her killed across the US.
  • Crowd Surfing: Played for Horror. At the Terry's farewell concert, Melanie is picked up and surfs the crowd. As the crowd starts to get crazy violent, Melanie seems moments away from being ripped apart, crushed, or sexually assaulted when she is picked up by a technician who saves her life.
  • Deal with the Devil: Almost a given. The questions are "What kind of deal?" and "Which devil?"
  • Deuteragonist: Melanie Gutierrez, a hard-working Koffin fan from West Virginia, is introduced in an early chapter. Her story only intersects with Kris's much later.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Kris is working at a truly fleabag motel when the book starts.
  • Missing Mom: Kris's mother has recently died at the start of the novel.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every chapter is named after a metal album. Well, except for the one where Kris and Melanie meet, which is named after Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow.
  • Myspeld R√∂kband: Both Dürt Würk and Koffin, the former complete with a meaningless umlaut.
  • The New Rock & Roll: Despite being published in 2018 and set in the then-present day, the book still treats metal music as having the sinister mystique it did in The '80s.
  • Pater Familicide: Feigned by the conspiracy to cover up Scottie's murder.
  • Pyrrhic Victory:
    • Kris manages to save hundreds of souls and thousands of lives, but she was despised, ostracized, bankrupted, and eventually either Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence, simply disappeared, or was brutally murdered by Black Mountain.
    • Terry reveals that this is the case for him. Sure, he ended up with unimaginable fame and fortune... but he also is under the control of Black Mountain forever. He actually envies Kris like she envies him.
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Terry, a rock star who made a Deal with the Devil for his worldly success.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Scottie Rocket, and especially his wife and children, who had nothing to do with it but were Killed to Uphold the Masquerade.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Dürt Würk's original drummer, JD, resurfaces and allies with Kris only to be torn to pieces by an angry mob.
  • Satanic Panic: Despite turning up in other Grady Hendrix novels, this is the only one that plays it straight. It's about the heavy metal component of the Satanic Panic, as lead singer Terry sold his soul to Black Mountain (and continues to give it the souls of his fans to feed upon), as mobs of angry people, fans, and Devil worshippers try to kill his old band member Kris while she tries to stop him.
  • Take That!: One of the Vox Pops hosts refers to Terry as "everything bad about KISS rolled up into one person."
  • Third Line, Some Waiting: The main story is told from Kris's perspective as she tries to unravel the truth about the devil and UPS conspiracy. The early chapters introduce Melanie, a hardworking, lower-class metal fan from West Virginia trying to make her way to the farewell tour, but leaves her for a huge chunk of time while Kris tries to escape (the A plot) and goes through her memories (the B plot). We check in with her a couple of times until she and Kris meet in person and then the POVs are split up more traditionally.
  • Torn Apart by the Mob: Kris's one ally, J.D., commits a Heroic Sacrifice by getting between her and an angry mob that are aiming for her and is ripped apart by them in front of her as she drives to Terry's last gig.
  • Vox Pops: Transcripts of radio call-in shows and news reports between chapters.