Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Book Review: Bone Dance

Quick summary: Sparrow, a trader of old and extremely rare videos and CDs in a post-Armageddon Minnesota, gets caught up in an internecine fight between two Horsemen, the last survivors of a group of powerful telepaths who caused the apocalypse.

*WARNING: Possible Spoilers*

I'm not going to go into the worldbuilding in this review of the book, because it didn't strike me as the most impressive overall. However, that's not to say it's bad. I just want to focus on the best (and worst) bits of the book, which of course, is all in my opinion.

This is the first book I’ve read from Emma Bull, and I have to say I’m quite impressed. The writing is rich with imagery, there’s some bits that make you go ‘Wow!’ And I honestly wish I wrote some of this stuff, haha. For example, on page 270:
The drums hammered at me, cut openings in my skin, laid their rhythm-eggs in the bloody wounds and sealed them up, to wait for hatching.
 Another kudos is that this book is very well written omni-1st person. I know that sounds odd, most folks don’t think of 1st person PoV as being omni, but it can be when the narrator is retelling the story as an auto-biography. At certain points in the story the narrator (Sparrow) foreshadows or offers a bit of information that he couldn’t possibly have known at the time.

I think the 1st person narration works is because it’s written like limited 3rd person. At first I thought this was 3rd person because of the way Sparrow describes his surroundings – but in a good way!  Also, there’s good justification for this story being written in 1st person, which I can’t say the same about other novels, but I don’t want to spoil it.  

However, like all books/movies, there are some issues. One was pacing. For the most part, this novel had a thriller’s pace (i.e. fast with lots of shit flying at the MC), but towards the end it hit a speed bump and never fully recovered. Sparrow had to literally drag himself to come face-to-face with the antagonist Tom Worecski, and it just didn’t have the same build-up as previous scenes. I felt like the first encounter with Tom held far more tension, rather than ‘might as well get this over with’ tone.

The climax was equally anti-climactic, but when do dues ex machina climaxes ever feel worthwhile? Here we have Sparrow who has just built-up his persona in the hopes he’ll be a match for Tom and what happens instead? A god rides Sparrow, destroys Tom in the process, all in order to get into Ego, because for some reason, a supreme being can’t get into a building. It’s certainly not the worst ending I’ve read, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it makes me shake my head. But I suppose the point of the book was Sparrow’s journey, learning to accept who he is and his place in this world, which I can respect, but doesn’t make me any less disappointed in the climax.

Also, in the end, all these characters popped up out of nowhere with impeccable timing to help Sparrow. Now I thought Sparrow was supposed to go alone, but it seemed he was being followed all along.

However, because I enjoyed most aspects of this book, I’m going to give it 4 out of 5 stars. Rounding up a 3.7 star. I will certainly check out Emma Bull’s other books, such as her popularly acclaimed War of the Oaks.  

One last point I want to make. Despite this story occurring in a post-apocalyptic world and having bioengineered humans, this is NOT a science fiction. Now I’m talking tone wise, because there are quite a few scenes that are surreal and mystifying, giving this an “other worldly” feel. Also, the technology plays, at best, a minimal role. I suppose the best way to put it is: It feels like a fantasy world, unlike our own.

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