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The Chimes by Anna Smaill
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The Chimes (edition 2016)

by Anna Smaill (Author)

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2871860,942 (3.42)70
"After the end of a brutal civil war, London is divided, with slums standing next to a walled city of elites. Monk-like masters are selected for special schooling and shut away for decades, learning to write beautiful compositions for the chimes, played citywide morning and night, to mute memory and keep the citizens trapped in ignorance. A young orphan named Simon arrives in London with nothing but the vague sense of a half-forgotten promise, to locate someone. What he finds is a new family--a gang of scavengers that patrols the underbelly of the city looking for valuable metal to sell. Drawn in by an enigmatic and charismatic leader, a blind young man named Lucien with a gift for song, Simon forgets entirely what originally brought him to the place he has now made his home. In this alternate London, the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is considered "blasphony." But Simon has a unique gift--the gift of retaining memories--that will lead him to discover a great injustice and take him far beyond the meager life as a member of Lucien's gang. Before long he will be engaged in an epic struggle for justice, love, and freedom. The Chimes is an impressive work of speculative fiction, an imaginative adventure elegantly told. The Chimes reveals the human capacity to create both beauty and terror, in art and in life"-- "Longlisted for the Man Booker, this elegant, debut work of literary science fiction imagines a dystopian London in which memory is outlawed and music is a means of expression and a tool for oppression"--… (more)
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Title:The Chimes
Authors:Anna Smaill (Author)
Info:Sceptre (2016)
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» See also 70 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I don't read many YA dystopias. I appreciate the consistency and aesthetics of the world-building here. It's an original idea. The author also follows the process of memory recovery in a fresh and intriguing way. The political and philosophical ideas behind this dystopia are interesting, but unsophisticated. A lot of YA dystopias seem to be anti-authoritarian and anti-fascist, which is great, but not at all a hot or new take. And the origins of this dystopia are implausible, not rooted in our current reality. I think a really good dystopia says something about current state of the world. This one seems to be built more around an aesthetic than a political agenda. ( )
  xiaomarlo | Apr 17, 2019 |
''In the quiet days of power,
Seven ravens in the tower.
When you clip the raven's wing,
Then the bird begins to sing."


What is Memory? Let us think on its importance for a moment. Can we even begin to imagine a life without it? Our mind a blank sheet and unable to store and retrieve the moments of our lives.Where would we be without Memory? When we don't remember we lack the means to be reminded of our mistakes.When we don't remember our mistakes,we end up repeating them. Now,I think we agree our world is quite bad as it is. Imagine it in the context of History, Politics, Society in general. If we had no memory of Nazism, of the Holocaust,of the Soviet occupations and all the horrors of the past,where would we be? How infinitely worse would our planet suffer?

The regime in Orwell's 1984 aimed in changing the language and rewriting History according to weekly -or even daily- whims. In Smaill's novel,the regime enters the people's minds and erases the memories. So, automatically, they know no family, no friends and loved ones.They don't have a complex job.They just drift. And thus, they are fully controlled by the Order.The time they acquired control is called the Allbreaking.

In this outstanding novel, our point of view is Simon, a young man who arrives in London after his mother's death.There he meets Lucien and Clare, young people who live in hiding and struggle to lead the resistance against the Order. As we witness Simon's life moving back and forth in time,we realise that he has the ability to keep his memories alive in the form of objects and has the gift to actually "see" the memories of others. And this is as far in the plot as I will take you.

"London Bridge is falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair Lady."

Remember the legend? The kingdom will fall, all peace will be lost once the ravens abandon the Tower.This is why their wings are clipped, to keep them forever and retain the stability of the land. Here, we have a different version...

"Before Chimes, the ravens flew all over the world together. Free to fly and haunt and free to look and understand what they saw. But however far they travelled, they would always return home. Muninn often the last of all, they say, because memory has the furthest distance to travel.Then one day they didn't come back. Muninn was lost."

What do we see now? Muninn and Huginn, Memory and Thought. Odin's faithful companions and his means to the knowledge of the human's deeds. Ravens are important in a large number of mythologies and traditions and especially to the Norse and the Celts. Remember Morrigan, the sacred Celtic goddess, whose symbol was the raven flying over the battlefields. Ravens stand for Memory and for Death and in the land there is none of the first and plenty of the latter after the Allbreaking.

Smaill is also a musician and the way she uses Music to develop the story is exceptional.Music is supposed to be one of the most beautiful creations of mankind. It is there to make us happy, to accompany us in good and bad moments.Yet,in this world, Music has become the instrument of oppression and death.When the chimes strike, memories are lost. Ravensguild is the network that fights for freedom to return and end the reign of the Order. They seek the Lady, a mysterious notion and the key to liberation.

"I hate the day coming again and again and never changing and nothing to hold on to. Because I hate waking into it with nothing there."

The sense of time is vague.The setting is strange.We know we are in "contemporary" London, but it seems that the Order has caused the city to acquire a Medieval feeling. Since memories are absent, there is no complexity, therefore no progress. As I was reading, I was "picturing" images of Medieval markets and dark alleys.The novel I'd enriched with references to iconic classic composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn. She also uses folk myths and legends and,naturally, she often refers to Shakespeare.The tragedy that takes central role is Macbeth.

"Thereafter, I think. A backwards looking word for time that is still to come. In itself a blasphony. Before Chimes, a voice says in my head, there would have been time for such a word. A tripleton rhythm driving upward in my mind. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow."

Why Macbeth? Shakespeare's Macbeth thought that his reign would change the kingdom. And it did, but in a nightmarish way.The Shakespearean Macbeth becomes a tyrant, extinguishes formerly beloved friends, causes the death of his wife,orders the massacre of a family. He establishes a totalitarian regime in its most vicious form.Smaill also brings to mind thoughts on the institution of Religion and how it has been used as an excuse for oppression and violence by men in power who address frightened and desperate people and have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.

Vocabulary has also changed."Yesterday" has become "yesternoch", Diversity is Discord.Solfege has become a sign language.I strongly disagree with some reviewers who claimed that the language is confusing.We have been to school,I believe. I think most of us have been taught Music, most of us know what "presto" or "Lento" means and if we don't, well, there's always good old Google to enlighten us...

I feel that this is a book that I can't review in the usual structured way. I feel that anything I write will not be able to do justice to its beauty.The writing is impeccable, Simon is a character that will touch you deeply, Lucien is one you'll fall in love with at once.This is a dystopian novel of the finest kind.

"When the Chimes fill up the sky,
Then the ravens start to fly.
Gwillum, Huginn, Cedric, Thor,
Odin, Hardy, nevermore."
( )
1 vote AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
''In the quiet days of power,
Seven ravens in the tower.
When you clip the raven's wing,
Then the bird begins to sing."

What is Memory? Let us think on its importance for a moment. Can we even begin to imagine a life without it? Our mind a blank sheet and unable to store and retrieve the moments of our lives.Where would we be without Memory? When we don't remember we lack the means to be reminded of our mistakes.When we don't remember our mistakes,we end up repeating them. Now,I think we agree our world is quite bad as it is. Imagine it in the context of History, Politics, Society in general. If we had no memory of Nazism, of the Holocaust,of the Soviet occupations and all the horrors of the past,where would we be? How infinitely worse would our planet suffer?

The regime in Orwell's 1984 aimed in changing the language and rewriting History according to weekly -or even daily- whims. In Smaill's novel,the regime enters the people's minds and erases the memories. So, automatically, they know no family, no friends and loved ones.They don't have a complex job.They just drift. And thus, they are fully controlled by the Order.The time they acquired control is called the Allbreaking.

In this outstanding novel, our point of view is Simon, a young man who arrives in London after his mother's death.There he meets Lucien and Clare, young people who live in hiding and struggle to lead the resistance against the Order. As we witness Simon's life moving back and forth in time,we realise that he has the ability to keep his memories alive in the form of objects and has the gift to actually "see" the memories of others. And this is as far in the plot as I will take you.

"London Bridge is falling down, falling down. London Bridge is falling down, my fair Lady."

Remember the legend? The kingdom will fall, all peace will be lost once the ravens abandon the Tower.This is why their wings are clipped, to keep them forever and retain the stability of the land. Here, we have a different version...

"Before Chimes, the ravens flew all over the world together. Free to fly and haunt and free to look and understand what they saw. But however far they travelled, they would always return home. Muninn often the last of all, they say, because memory has the furthest distance to travel.Then one day they didn't come back. Muninn was lost."

What do we see now? Muninn and Huginn, Memory and Thought. Odin's faithful companions and his means to the knowledge of the human's deeds. Ravens are important in a large number of mythologies and traditions and especially to the Norse and the Celts. Remember Morrigan, the sacred Celtic goddess, whose symbol was the raven flying over the battlefields. Ravens stand for Memory and for Death and in the land there is none of the first and plenty of the latter after the Allbreaking.

Smaill is also a musician and the way she uses Music to develop the story is exceptional.Music is supposed to be one of the most beautiful creations of mankind. It is there to make us happy, to accompany us in good and bad moments.Yet,in this world, Music has become the instrument of oppression and death.When the chimes strike, memories are lost. Ravensguild is the network that fights for freedom to return and end the reign of the Order. They seek the Lady, a mysterious notion and the key to liberation.

"I hate the day coming again and again and never changing and nothing to hold on to. Because I hate waking into it with nothing there."

The sense of time is vague.The setting is strange.We know we are in "contemporary" London, but it seems that the Order has caused the city to acquire a Medieval feeling. Since memories are absent, there is no complexity, therefore no progress. As I was reading, I was "picturing" images of Medieval markets and dark alleys.The novel I'd enriched with references to iconic classic composers like Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn. She also uses folk myths and legends and,naturally, she often refers to Shakespeare.The tragedy that takes central role is Macbeth.

"Thereafter, I think. A backwards looking word for time that is still to come. In itself a blasphony. Before Chimes, a voice says in my head, there would have been time for such a word. A tripleton rhythm driving upward in my mind. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow."

Why Macbeth? Shakespeare's Macbeth thought that his reign would change the kingdom. And it did, but in a nightmarish way.The Shakespearean Macbeth becomes a tyrant, extinguishes formerly beloved friends, causes the death of his wife,orders the massacre of a family. He establishes a totalitarian regime in its most vicious form.Smaill also brings to mind thoughts on the institution of Religion and how it has been used as an excuse for oppression and violence by men in power who address frightened and desperate people and have nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.

Vocabulary has also changed."Yesterday" has become "yesternoch", Diversity is Discord.Solfege has become a sign language.I strongly disagree with some reviewers who claimed that the language is confusing.We have been to school,I believe. I think most of us have been taught Music, most of us know what "presto" or "Lento" means and if we don't, well, there's always good old Google to enlighten us...

I feel that this is a book that I can't review in the usual structured way. I feel that anything I write will not be able to do justice to its beauty.The writing is impeccable, Simon is a character that will touch you deeply, Lucien is one you'll fall in love with at once.This is a dystopian novel of the finest kind.

"When the Chimes fill up the sky,
Then the ravens start to fly.
Gwillum, Huginn, Cedric, Thor,
Odin, Hardy, nevermore." ( )
  AmaliaGavea | Jul 15, 2018 |
oh, wow. I don't know how to even begin to talk about this one. Just go read it; you can thank me later. ( )
  hopeevey | May 20, 2018 |
Moved slowly and wasn't completely grabbed by the idea
  suecrawford | Dec 9, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
A totalitarian regime inflicts amnesia through music in this fresh and complex novel, which shows the social importance of an understanding of the past. In an era overwhelmingly obsessed with the currency of “now”, it is not surprising that writers are becoming preoccupied with the value of the past and of collective memory. Two new novels explore this theme in startling ways: Kazuo Ishiguro’s dark ages fable The Buried Giant, and the fiction debut of New Zealand poet Anna Smaill. The latter is a bold, engrossing piece of dystopian writing which, despite a fiendishly complicated structure and the many distinguished antecedents in the genre, comes across as fresh and original....
added by avatiakh | editGuardian, Catherine Taylor (Mar 15, 2015)
 
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For my parents
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A mind-expanding literary debut composed of memory, music and imagination.

A boy stands on the roadside on his way to London, alone in the rain. No memories, beyond what he can hold in his hands at any given moment. No directions, as written words have long since been forbidden. No parents - just a melody that tugs at him, a thread to follow. A song that says if he can just get to the capital, he may find some answers about what happened to them.

The world around Simon sings, each movement a pulse of rhythm, each object weaving its own melody, music ringing in every drop of air.
Welcome to the world of The Chimes. Here, life is orchestrated by a vast musical instrument that renders people unable to form new memories. The past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphemy.

But slowly, inexplicably, Simon is beginning to remember. He emerges from sleep each morning with a pricking feeling, and sense there is something he urgently has to do. In the city Simon meets Lucien, who has a gift for hearing, some secrets of his own, and a theory about the danger lurking in Simon's past.

A stunning debut composed of memory, music, love and freedom, The Chimes pulls you into a world that captivates, enthrals and inspires.
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