Finding the greater good, Jack Goldingham Newsom
Richly descriptive in all aspects of story-telling, Anna Smaill’s The Chimes is a stellar novel centring on our interaction with memory and the past through a post-apocalyptic musical world.
A strong opening sentence which identifies a theme as the subject of the story and clearly states the reviewer’s assessment of the novel.
Editor’s note: Close
The two main characters, Lucien and Simon, meet in London and develop their talents throughout the novel – Lucien is blind and thus uses his hearing to guide him, and Simon has the ability to remember other people’s memories. Their adventure begins when they mentally overthrow The Order – the ruling group; meaning Simon can begin to remember his own memories without needing objects to aid him.
The relationship that develops takes some intriguing twists and turns, as Simon and Lucien begin to understand each other. Smaill uses the senses to describe their interactions – touch and hearing being the most prominent. This means that, as a reader, we experience the darkness as the characters do, and leaving out sight as a sense provides a very different perspective to the majority of novels.
The reviewer identifies the way the theme and the form of the novel are tied together: how the book is written supports its ideas and meanings.
Editor’s note: Close
Cleverly integrated musical tempo terms such as “presto” keep the pace and replace common adverbs, firmly setting the story in the musical world Smaill has created. There are a lot of terms developed to describe the running of The Order, such as “Vespers” and “The Chimes”, which slowly reveal themselves as Simon gets acquainted with London life. Smaill also frequently uses very short sentences to create pace, sometimes to her detriment, as they lose the stream of consciousness which is created in the beginning with lengthy description and well developed emotions.
The female characters show bravery and sacrifice, with Lucien’s family helping the boys to get into the Carillon (the propaganda instrument used by The Order to create order in society and remove memories). Although they are minor characters, Smaill still leaves some room for developing their character and relationships, and Lucien’s sister’s allegiance shifts once the truth is revealed.
Arguably my favourite theme in the novel is the value of truth for the majority, and the argument of what the “greater good” means. This question is asked by many people on Simon and Lucien’s journey, and because their belief that everyone should know the truth is so strong they rarely question the implications of their journey until the conclusion of the novel. Smaill manages to subtly explore this in the early parts of the novel, in which she writes through Simon’s perspective of the arrival in London. We learn of the turmoil he has been through and the constant fear of forgetting. This is put to trial with the idea that the truth is best left unknown – Smaill’s outcome is a very interesting one!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and it was hard to put down at times! Definitely worth your time reading it, although a little musical knowledge may be required to understand the adverbs Smaill uses. It is a very harsh look at a futuristic world: one that is definitely possible and thus one we should all consider. Her well-crafted characters are relatable and true, leading to an immersive reading experience in a highly developed, creative world.
Jack Goldingham Newsom is at student at Scots College, Wellington.
February, 2016 jane Scroll down to see reviews submitted by YA readers: The Chimes