Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Book Review: The Chimes

The Chimes
Anna Smaill
Published by Sceptre
Available in paperback, ebook and audiobook

The Chimes is an ambitious novel encompassing the power of memory, the force of music and the control of ruling bodies in a dystopian future.

In an alternative London, music has replaced the written word, and memories are carried as physical objects and in learned behaviour. Every day people wake up not knowing where they are, the people who live with them, their life before sleeping. People walk around in a confused state unless they can quickly find a purpose. People are lured to their jobs, shops, and homes by lullaby-like songs. the melody holds memories, making the body react.

Simon, a young boy, finds himself in London, in a gang who are all trying to survive along the banks of the Thames, starts to get a feeling that he has something urgent to do, and every morning he wakes up, ready to do the same routine as the day before but the memories of his past start to bleed through. Along with his friend, Lucien, they must find a way of unlocking these memories to save their futures. And maybe dislodge the Order, the governing body who rule over the population. They must find a way out of London and make their way to Oxford.

Smaill's alternative London reminded me of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere with the way that familiar landmarks take on new meanings. Like Gaiman, Smaill's world is eerie and atmospheric - you could see the details coming alive and taste some of the unpleasant smells. This book could almost be the love child of Neverwhere and His Dark Materials.

There are lots of musical references throughout the novel, and for me, Google was my friend, helping me to research terms (so as well as reading an interesting, entertaining story I was also educated). Music helps people to remember their way or how to work but Smaill also explores the way the governing body manipulate music so that is is also seen as a way of causing agony and destruction to society.

I will be honest and say that the beginning is confusing. The book is thick with detail and is very poetic and the reader is thrown head first into Smaill's world. This slight confusion to the reader reflects the characters state of mind. Think of Christopher Nolan's Memento crossed with Herman Hesse.

This is an inventive and intense novel. You'll need to be fully concentrating for this novel but you'll be glad you made the effort. I'm looking forward to reading more by Anna Smaill. The Chimes is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher.

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