Musical Mystery Tour
Release Date: 12 February
291 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author: Anna Smaill Publisher: Sceptre
With the sequel to
Samantha Shannon’s similarly located The Bone Season also recently released, you have to wonder what it is about London and Oxford. But set in a post- apocalyptic future where music has replaced the written word and people carry around bags of trinkets to remind them of the past, The Chimes is more The Drowned World than His Dark Materials.
The spirit of JG Ballard looms large over the New Zealander’s debut as she evocatively paints a society where the sinister Order have used a huge musical instrument, the Carillon, to render the populace amnesiac. Centring on young Simon Wythern, it begins with the orphan journeying to the capital, where he joins a band of scavengers lead by the Fagin- esque Lucien. Boasting a secret of his own, Lucien realises the significance of Simon’s unique ability to remember and the pair embark on a voyage up the Thames to the Order’s Oxford base…
The plot is slim, and you never really sense that the characters are in any great peril, but Smaill draws you into her vividly created environment with characters like the tragic Clare, who can only keep track of time by self- harming. She also has so much fun reinventing familiar London landmarks, from Dog Isle to Green Witch, that it’s almost a shame when the narrative leaves the city behind. For a story about music, The Chimes is a triumph on the printed page. Stephen Jewell The Chimes is Anna Smaill’s debut novel, but she previously had a collection of poetry published, back in 2005.