Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Chimes, by Anna Smaill

The Chimes was nominated for a World Fantasy Award this year, and also "long-listed for the Man Booker Award".  I was possibly long-listed for the Pulitzer--no one informed me.  Matters not, the question is, is it a good read and a candidate to win?

Anna Smaill is an english major, and the book is very stylish.  The Chimes is set in a post-apocalypse London, where music has deliberately replaced much of language and is a primary means of communication.  The book's style tries to get across the feeling of thinking musically, in words.  Quite a challenge.

The protagonist comes to London after his parents' death to find a particular person in the city who might be able to help.  When she refuses him, he falls in with a street gang that makes a living recycling palladium.  The palladium is in turn used to build and maintain the Carillon, played twice a day.  Its music drives all memories from the minds of the people of London, except for those they take extreme measures to preserve.  The Masters think it is better this way, after the disaster (called the Allbreaking).  The protagonist does not start out looking to change this, but finds the leader of the gang he is in with does.  The plot moves from there.

Unfortunately the challenge Smaill sets for herself winds up being a bit much, and what we end up with is a book that is difficult to read.  Its plot is OK but does not, in my mind, quite repay the effort needed to pull it out.  I got something out of it, but if I'm glad a book is over when I'm done reading it I can't give it a strong recommendation.  2 stars from me.

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