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Review: Emma Bull, Bone Dance

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{ Now playing: Talking Heads, Sand in the Vaseline (1)
Recent movies: China in Revolution (1 of 3)****; The Matrix Reloaded***; China in Revolution (2 of 3)****; Border***; Once Upon a Time in China****;
Recent books: II Samuel; Epistle to the Hebrews; Koch, The History of Prussia; Luther, Selected Psalms I; Iain M. Banks, Use of Weapons; Dirlik, Anarchism in the Chinese Revolution; Salisbury, Tiannamen Diary; Emma Bull, Bone Dance; Glen Cook, She Is The Darkness;

Emma Bull's Bone Dance is a decent post-fall future tale with a nicely creeping development of themes and motifs which seem at first like simply innovative flavors, adding creativity to a thrilleresque premise. Not set in friggin' New York or L.A. for a refreshing change, Bull gives the City (Minneapolis/St. Paul, I believe) its own identity in its post-apocalyptic future. Actually, post-apocalyptic is misleading; Bull's vision of a damaged North American future, after the wars of the Horsemen nuked cities of millions, is believable and nuanced, unlike most writers' visions.

Protagonist Sparrow gives first-person narration for Bone Dance, which opens with Sparrow at work -- selling a precious copy of Singin' in the Rain on video for two hundred gold coins (which bear the buyer's likeness, in fact). Structured around tarot, and flavored by film references, the novel follows several plot arcs in which Sparrow negotiates the claims of the Deal, the streets of the Night Fair, and the twists of fate. Subtitled "A Fantasy for Technophiles", Bone Dance is a good read that blends fantastic with speculative. In addition to surprising with making what is apparently ornamental integral to the story, Bull fails to follow cliche, choosing instead to complete her own tale.

A good read, and definitely a strong, rich prose, Bone Dance only suffers from a lack of clarity and definition in its ending (which I refuse to spoiler). A kick in the editor's shins for not sending it back for rewrites until the author's vision was clearly visible to the reader on first read-through. It's not a bad ending, though, and it's to a good book, which makes it worthwhile; readers of fantasy and sci-fi looking for a different angle on the genres should borrow Bull's Bone Dance if it's in the cards.

Emma Bull, Bone Dance (Ace, 1991) ISBN 0-441-57457-2

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