A symphonic dystopian luxury of a novel – The Chimes by Anna Smaill (out this week!)

Book Reviews, Book Thoughts, literary london, London, Recommended

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How did you arrive in London? This question haunts Simon as he remembers snippets, through catches of songs and the old Burberry coat he got from somewhere. As he befriends Lucien, he gradually starts to grasp onto his history in this world where music is meaning, text or meaning is blasphony and what they discover changes everything. He and Lucien must seek to understand the system that traps people in their present moment.

Oh my! I loved this book. I really loved it. From it’s arrival as a beautiful hardback with a stunning cover to finishing the last page and wishing I could go on reading it was a complete pleasure. Original ideas, lovely prose and a wonderful flow to the story that actually felt like music.

In this dystopian London few people can hold onto their memories, and those that do put them into physical objects to attempt to keep them. The start of the book was largely about Simon trying to piece things together. This was strange, as the reader at some points knew more than he did, and we were trying to piece together the world itself as well as the story.

But as this echoed Simon’s confusion I think it worked – but the constant remembering and forgetting took a long part of the book. I found myself wondering how on earth the story was going to get anywhere if it continued at that pace – but it did pick up!

The world was compelling and fascinating. After the Allbreaking communication has changed: people now communicate with song and with Solfege, a sign language version of a musical scale. And with speech too (I think) – but written words or ‘code’ have disappeared. Language, too, has changed subtly; place names are adapted and evolved and different words used, which worked well.

But there wasn’t too much explanation of how these things worked or fit together. We saw Simon’s perspective, and he obviously thought of them as normal so didn’t go into detail – leaving the reader with a glimpse into this strange world that wasn’t quite sewn up around the edges.

But it worked. The story, the adventure, the characters, the concept and the world were all stunning. I’d got sick of dystopias after reading a lot of them last year, but this brought a clarity and freshness to the genre, and I heartily recommend it (and have already to many!). Go and read it everyone!

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8 thoughts on “A symphonic dystopian luxury of a novel – The Chimes by Anna Smaill (out this week!)

  1. I’d heard about this and thought it sounded interesting–now you’ve really made me want to read it! I’ve had a lot less time for reading lately, but I’ll definitely try to get around to this.

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