The Chimes

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With The Chimes, Smaill has woven a singularly captivating and compelling read. I’ll admit, it was the cover that drew me first. A cityscape seen through the cutout of a cello (possibly a violin or viola). I play two of those, theoretically at least, and am always drawn to them in pictures or on books.

Our story begins with young Simon, now an orphan, making his way to London. With him he carries a roughcloth bag of knick knacks. These are his objectmemories, which help him recall major events in his life. For, you see, this is a world in which everyone suffers amnesia. Bodymemories, or ingrained tasks, will stick, but little else.

Here, music is life. It rules all. Everyone knows it and plays an instrument of some kind. Music guides their way like a map. It identifies them. Simon is drafted into a pactguild, those who search the Thames for the “Pale Lady,” or “palladium.” This precious metal, or mettle as it’s called, is used to make the Carillon. This is a massive instrument that plays Chimes for the populace several times a day, the music of which “cleanses” and “purifies,” wiping memories away.

Simon lived and worked with his new family until he began seeing things he didn’t realize he could. As time goes on, he learns that Lucien, the leader of Simon’s pact, is more than he appears to be, and the Carillon is far more than previously believed. Together with Lucien, Simon sets off, determined to find the full truth of Chimes and free a people enslaved.

Smaill’s novel plays with a concept I love. Music defines everything for these people, but it’s more than that. Synesthesia seems to be a common trait for them. Wordless music weaves concrete pictures. Some see clear colors. Others, like Simon, smell the music. For him, Chimes has a peppery smell.

The phrasing and style remind me somewhat of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange. Threaded all through the book, actions are defined in musical terms, adding to my association between this novel and Burgess’s. If you aren’t familiar with musical terms, it can be like reading A Clockwork Orange without a dictionary in the back.

There’s just so much going on in this book. Parts remind me of the adventure and questing of such stories as Labyrinth and The Neverending Story, especially with memory loss and its recovery being necessary to moving forward. Meeting Mary only reinforced that. There’s additionally a hint of cultural destruction a lá Fahrenheit 451 and Equilibrium. I see more of the latter in it because the regulated use of Chimes to wipe memory makes me think of the intervals of Prozium used to numb the populace, and the Order recalls the Tetragrammaton Clerics. Clearly not all culture is destroyed, since music is a manifestation of it, but the loss of books and other arts…Gahhh!

Aside from that I was really surprised to learn what the palladium was for and the truth behind Chimes. It’s such a terrifying thought. Lucien was perhaps my favorite character, mostly because he is blind, and I can relate. While I do have one mostly functional eye, its vision isn’t great. This has both taught, and forced, me to see things in different ways. This book is highly recommended, especially if you enjoyed Labyrinth or The Neverending Story.



Author Anna Smaill
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 304 pages
Publisher Quercus
Publish Date 2016-05-03
ISBN 9781681445342
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue October 2016
Category Science Fiction & Fantasy
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