Book review: 'The Bone Season'

Sunday, 18 August 2013 - 8:50am IST | Agency: dna

Book: The Bone Season
Author: Samantha Shannon
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 480
Price: Rs499

She is being called the next JK Rowling. Samantha Shannon, 21, was paid in excess of £100,000 for her debut book, The Bone Season, the first in a series of seven. The film rights have been sold to actor Andy Serkis’s company, The Imaginarium and the book’s rights have been sold in 20 countries.

The Bone Season is the story of Paige Mahoney, a 19-year-old clairvoyant, an ‘unnatural’ living in dystopian England in 2059. She is a ‘dreamwalker’, capable of letting her spirit roam beyond her own body and into others ‘dreamscapes’. Such paranormal activity is illegal and its practitioners face the threat of being sent to the Tower by the Scion government. To protect herself, she joins a criminal gang operating around Covent Garden’s Seven Dials. Her powers come to the government’s attention and she’s sent to a penal colony in Oxford, where the ‘Warden’ takes her as his slave. Through him and visiting that imprisoned world at night, she finds out the truth of this new world and its brutal war with beings from other dimensions.

The pace of the book is slow at times and there’s an information overload but Mahoney’s fictional escapist world is well-etched out and things start gathering pace towards the end.

The Bone Season will be released on August 20 worldwide.

We are the minority the world does not accept. Not outside of fantasy, and even that’s blacklisted. We look like everyone else.

Sometimes we act like everyone else. In many ways, we are like everyone else. We are everywhere, on every street. We live in a way you might consider normal, provided you don’t look too hard.

Not all of us know what we are. Some of us die without ever knowing. Some of us know, and we never get caught. But we’re out there. Trust me.

I had lived in that part of London that used to be called Islington since I was eight. I attended a private school for girls, leaving at sixteen to work. That was in the year 2056. AS 127, if you use the Scion calendar. It was expected of young men and women to scratch out a living wherever they could, which was usually behind a counter of one sort or another. There were plenty of jobs in the service industry. My father thought I would lead a simple life; that I was bright but unambitious, complacent with whatever work life threw at me.

From the age of sixteen I had worked in the criminal underworld of Scion London — SciLo, as we called it on the streets. I worked among ruthless gangs of voyants, all willing to floor each other to survive. All part of a citadel-wide syndicate headed by the Underlord. Pushed to the edge of society, we were forced into crime to prosper.

And so we became more hated. We made the stories true. I had my little place in the chaos. I was a mollisher, the protégée of a mime-lord. My boss was a man named Jaxon Hall, the mimelord responsible for the I-4 area. There were six of us in his direct employ. We called ourselves the Seven Seals.

I couldn’t tell my father. He thought I was an assistant at an oxygen bar, a badly paid but legal occupation. It was an easy lie. He wouldn’t have understood if I’d told him why I spent my time with criminals. He didn’t know that I belonged with them. More than I belonged with him.

I was nineteen years old the day my life changed. Mine was a familiar name on the streets by that time. After a tough week at the black market, I’d planned to spend the weekend with my father. Jax didn’t twig why I needed time off — for him, there was nothing worth our salt outside the syndicate — but he didn’t have a family like I did. Not a living family, anyway.

And although my father and I had never been close, I still felt I should keep in touch. A dinner here, a phone call there, a present at Novembertide. The only hitch was his endless list of questions.
What job did I have? Who were my friends? Where was I living?

I couldn’t answer. The truth was dangerous. He might have sent me to Tower Hill himself if he’d known what I really did. Maybe I should have told him the truth. Maybe it would have killed him.
Either way, I didn’t regret joining the syndicate. My line of work was dishonest, but it paid. And as Jax always said, better an outlaw than a stiff.

It was raining that day. My last day at work. A life-support machine kept my vitals ticking over. I looked dead, and in a way I was: my spirit was detached, in part, from my body. It was a crime for which I could have faced the gallows.

I said I worked in the syndicate. Let me clarify. I was a hacker of sorts. Not a mind reader, exactly; more a mind radar, in tune with the workings of the æther. I could sense the nuances of dreamscapes and rogue spirits. Things outside myself. Things the average voyant wouldn’t feel.
Jax used me as a surveillance tool. My job was to keep track of ethereal activity in his section. He would often have me check out other voyants, see if they were hiding anything. At first it had just been people in the room — people I could see and hear and touch — but soon he realised I could go further than that. I could sense things happening elsewhere: a voyant walking down the street, a gathering of spirits in the Garden. So long as I had life support, I could pick up on the æther within a mile radius of Seven Dials.

So if he needed someone to dish the dirt on what was happening in I-4, you could bet your broads Jaxon would call yours truly. He said I had potential to go further, but Nick refused to let me try. We didn’t know what it would do to me. All clairvoyance was prohibited, of course, but the kind that made money was downright sin. They had a special term for it: mime-crime. Communication with the spirit world, especially for financial gain. It was mime-crime that the syndicate was built on.

Cash-in-hand clairvoyance was rife among those who couldn’t get into a gang. We called it busking. Scion called it treason. The official method of execution for such crimes was nitrogen asphyxiation, marketed under the brand name NiteKind. I still remember the headlines: PAINLESS PUNISHMENT: SCION’S LATEST MIRACLE. They said it was like going to sleep, like taking a pill. There were still public hangings, and the odd bit of torture for high treason.

I committed high treason just by breathing.

Excerpted with permission from Bloomsbury India




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