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Bone Song (Gollancz S.F.) [Paperback]

John Meaney
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Paperback, 15 Mar 2007 --  
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Book Description

15 Mar 2007 Gollancz S.F.
Lieutenant Donal Riordan has been given the most bizarre of new cases. Four famous stage performers have died in recent months, thee of them in state capitals within Transifica, the fourth in far Zurinam. And now the idolised Diva, Maria deLivnova is coming to Tristopolis. Donal's boss is determined that nothing like this is ever to happen in his city. Donal is to have anything he needs as long the Diva lives. And so begins a dark investigation through a world where corpses give up their pyschic energy in the massive necrofulx generators that power the city, where gargoyles talk, where wraiths work in slavery, a world of the dead where corruption is alive. This is an extraordinary SF novel set in alternate universe quite unlike any imagined in SF before; a universe where magic and the supernatural and the undead are given a scientific rationale and horrifyingly plausible rationale. The novel's setting, Tristopolis, is the ultimate noir city; an immense baroque creation of haunted stone skyscrapers, black metal and city-wide catacombs. Its hero Donal Riordan is immensely likeable and easy to identify with. Even once he's dead.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; 1st edition (15 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575079541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575079540
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,365,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm John Meaney (aka Thomas Blackthorne), writer of hard SF, gothic SF/dark fantasy, and near-future thrillers. Having studied physics and computer science, I've been a globetrotting IT consultant and taught software engineering on three continents. Nowadays, I hide in a Welsh valley and write full-time.

I've trained in martial arts since I was a kid, primarily shotokan karate. I'm a trained hypnotist, so don't look into my eyes... And I adore cats. (And is my online home - pop in and say hi!)

P.S. For readers shopping at - please note that Black Blood is a US import, being the title the American publishers chose to use for the book that's called Dark Blood over here. (Writers don't choose titles or cover art or any of that stuff. We don't like it when something appears under 2 different titles, because in the long run it costs us readers!) To be fair to the publishers, Black Blood was my original working title, but it changed a year before US publication. The US edition contains later revisions compared to the British version, but they're minor.

Publishers buy the rights to publish in certain countries, so the US publishers weren't thinking of American books being sold in Britain. The business is country-based, but the Web is global.

Product Description


"Meaney's creepy, death-haunted world lingers in the long after the book is closed. A smart and spooky read." (THE TIMES )

"Filmic action aplenty and lots of weird imagery." (SFX )

"Fast paced, very entertaining and out of the ordinary. Meaney throws together familiar elements of multiple genres and creates something both haunting and engaging. (SFFWORLD.COM )

"Bone Song is crisply written and the gruesome aspects of Tristopolis are vividly portrayed." (Eric Brown THE GUARDIAN )

"Think Dirty Harry in a city created by the bastard love-child of Jeff VanderMeer and China Mieville. The backdrop of a hardboiled crime plot cleverly disguises stories of human interaction, trust, mistrust, loyalty, morality, acceptance, and love while delivering a great mystery." (NETH SPACE. COM )

Book Description

John Meaney joins the Gollancz list and launches a new genre: dark SF --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original, innovative, brilliant 4 May 2008
I was getting very bored by Paranormal PIs until I read Bone Song. This is NOT another goodguy/gal werewolf/vampire/witch hunting down (while having hot, rampant sex with a sort-of-good-sort-of-bad partner) the badguy/gal werewolf/vamp... well, you get the picture. Yes, there are security deathwolves, wraiths which act as the force running inanimate objects such as lifts, cars, etc and there are zombies. The characters are, perhaps, a little typical; strong but silent cop and wisecracking twin cops but the antihero, Donal Riordan, is a cop whose lover/boss is a zombie who has to plug her black heart into the mains (energy comes from the tortured emotions of flayed and executed criminals) every few days to "live".
There is action aplenty. No one is who they seem to be; layers upon layers of conspiracy (I LOOOOOVE a really good conspiracy story)abound.
I couldnt really think of comparable authors - hence the title for the review - but take a dash of the Nightside series minus the humour, a chunk of Richard Morgan and stir in a soupcon of Karen Chance and you may have an idea, but this book (and the sequel, incidentally) is very dark and bleak and while satisfying in the denouement, still leaves you desperate for more. On the bright side, there is a sequel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Strange 5 Jun 2007
By Lyle
Bone Song is an interesting read - it takes an alternative view where everything is powered by corpses (hey, don't blame me, I only read the thing) which makes for a very dark and gothic-feeling novel, with some interesting ideas about wraiths, ghosts, and how the dead are processed into energy.

All told, I'm going to be looking out for more of John Meaney's stuff - I'd thought he was a new author, but it turns out he's been around for a while.

If you like authors like Peter F Hamilton, Richard Morgan and the like, Bone Song will probably be right up your street.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting dark thriller 30 May 2008
This is a strange and unusual novel. Set in a kind of alternative reality where some things are similar but also blended in is a city that exists off the energy of the bones of the dead, and wraiths and zombies are part of the society.
I have read many novels with a taste of this, but s has been pointed out by other reviewers this is NOT a vampire girl, Jim Butcher type thing.
This is a detective thriller set within a unique and interesting premise and it delivers the story well while letting you get a taste of the world the author has created.
Refreshingly different blend of thriller, sc-fi and the macabre
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping tale set in a dark and vivid world. 1 July 2008
Wow, what an amazing book. The world that Meaney creates practically leaps off the page and is unlike anything I have read before. It is a truly unique vision that is realised so well that even now, weeks after finishing the book I can still vividly imagine Tristopolis and its rich landscape.

Noir/Horror/Sci-fi/Fantasy and pure mystery combine in a filmic read that grips from the very start.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant but flawed 11 Feb 2014
I loved the world of Bone Song - a mixture of dark (VERY dark) detective fiction with a world of horror, where the city is powered by necro-flux generated from the bones of the dead, technology is replaced by bound wraiths operating lifts or guarding doors, and zombies and deathwolves abound.

This is the story of Donal, a policeman who is assigned to protect a visiting opera singer; other performers have died at the hands, as it becomes clear, of a ghoulish conspiracy that wants to repurpose their bones. Of course, there is more to it than that and Not All Is What It Seems. Who can you trust?

Meaney shows great investiveness in creating his alternate Earth and populating it and the whole thing is very convincing both in tone and in how the details work together. Having just read his Ragnorok trilogu, I was intrigued to see some of the same devices used there in this earlier book - such as the "person-and-vehicle" compound or the trick of using pseudo-code to describe a character's mind. The deep knowledge of martial arts is there too, informing the various fights (and there are quite a few).

The story is generally well plotted, with a dramatic conclusion which makes sense in story terms, given the weird universe we're in it would have been very easy to finish things off with a bit of mystical jargon, but Meaney doesn't. It is a book I enjoyed. So, why do I think it's flawed? That is because (watch out - spoilers ahead!) for most of the central section of the book, we see capable, experienced members of a police team behave like idiots. To set up the ending, it's necessary that a member, or members, of the team, turn against Donal, assuming he's a spy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Original, good plot, slightly weak atmosphere. 24 Dec 2012
By Willy Eckerslike TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having greatly enjoyed the first two instalments of the Ragnarok trilogy I thought I'd try something a little different while I waited for the concluding volume. I like noir sci-fi and, despite it being an odd combination of genres, done well it works very well (an obvious example being Reynold's Century Rain). Unfortunately, Bone Song seemed to be trying a little too hard; the prose was laboured and rather than being cleverly drawn into the shadowy world of Tristopolis, I felt more like I was being forced under its murky waters. The first hundred pages or so all felt a little shallow and just slightly silly. In all of the Meaney's I've read, dialogue seems to be his weakest suit and here, again, it's a bit clunky and lets him down somewhat; you can't question his originality, depth of imagination or his ability to construct complex plots but, for me, he just didn't quite achieve the subtle atmosphere required of the genre.

The above comments notwithstanding, this is still a pretty good read and in the second half of the book the aforementioned laboured prose gives way to Meaney's trademark relentless action and intrigue. Perhaps I was expecting too much given the excellence of the Ragnarok novels and perhaps the switch from Corey's first two fantastic `Expanse' space opera novels was a bit sudden. By the time I'd finished it I'd found that I had rather enjoyed it and I think I may well rejoin Detective Riordan for his next adventure in Dark Blood. 7/10.
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