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Bone Song by John Meaney

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Book Information  
AuthorJohn Meaney
TitleBone Song
GenreScience Fiction
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Dutch 
(Oct 09, 2009)

I have to admit, in recent years my passion for Fantasy and Science Fiction has started to skew towards the more bizarre, the more morbid and the more nightmarish. So it was with great delight that I discovered the genre of 'New Weird'. If you dont know what it is, look it up on Wiki.

But anyway, I started with China Mieville and was hooked. Suddenly the Fantasy/SF realms were mundane and bland to me and I started to look for other authors that dallied in this style. So it was I came to Bone Song, an book I initally picked up out of sheer curiousity. Was it good? Well.....

I have to say first that Bone Song definitely fits into the New Weird Genre. While it posits itself almost 250 years into the future (SF) the future appears to have taken a turn for the dark and morbid, with science and technology working alongside necromancy (Dark Fantasy) and the undead are residents alongside the living in the gothic metropolitan city of Tristopolis.

We are introduced to a whole host of the strange and bizarre that at times are only hinted at and we as the readers are encouraged to fill in the blanks; wraith spirits are employed for various chores, mystical and mundane, creatures called scanbats fly over the city doing reconnaiscance for the local law and the undead are powered by battery driven hearts they have to recharge every 25 hours.

It is in this city that we are introduced to Donal Riordan, a man's man and a hard beat cop who is given the assignment of protecting an opera diva coming to visit the city. Naturally as plotlines dictate, the whole plan goes south very quickly and Riordan finds himself embroiled in a new world of secret agents, dark magicks and twisted plots.

If you havent figured it out by now, the one thing that I can praise Meaney for the most, is his grasp of atmosphere. Tristopolis doesnt just feel like a city, it feels alive. Even the most mundane things are some strange edge to them that draws you in and keeps you there (such as seven sided currency or downpours of mercury rain). Meaney has the quality to paint a world through only the barest of brush strokes and suck you right into whats going on. It is this element that defines the New Weird genre.

But unfortunately, thats all Meaney seems to bring to the table, because halfway through the book, we are introduced to a spate of new characters and suddenly Meaney's weakness becomes clear; he can't write characters or plotlines very cleanly.

All the new characters introduced feel like cut-copy-paste images of themselves and there's very little to differentiate them from the rest of the plebs throughout. Even their various sidestories feel like they have been tacked on for no other reason than to give them a reason to be there. Riordan himself talks like a robot and the love between him and his partner, the zombie Laura Steele feels awkward and uncomfortable.

In addition, the plotline to Bone Song can best be described as a marketplace flow chart; the first half of the book, the plots on the up and up with thrills chills and enough immersion to keep you held in your seat, but around the halfway mark it slides down and keeps going down. All the energy placed into the first half falls on the wayside as all the sidestories suddenly come screeching to the forefront and the reader is kicked out of the book, feeling confused. I myself only managed to get through 3/4 of the book before I lost interest and had to put it down.

But despite all my moaning about it, Bone Song surprisingly occupies a spot on my bookshelf. Why? Because while Meaney's faults are obvious, the aforementioned atmosphere is what keeps me hooked. I may only read up that 3/4 mark over and over, but I have to admit, I never get tired to reading Bone Song.

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