The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories is the debut short story collection by talented upcoming author, Joanne Anderton. It contains thirteen stories in all, eleven of which have been previously published and two of which are brand new. All considered, it is an extremely impressive collection, and it did not contain a single story that I didn’t enjoy.
While I have enjoyed Anderton’s novels, in my personal opinion, her short stories have their own unique magic. They offer tantalizing glimpses into strange yet familiar worlds occupied by deeply and undeniably human characters. Without the need for elaborate explanation, Anderton draws you in and makes you believe in places where statues move, machines rule, or a wind chime made of bones tells its own tale. At times you can almost hear the crunch of desiccated grass underfoot or the rustle of skeleton animals stirring.
Most of the stories in The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories lean towards the darker side. Nevertheless, Anderton does not always paint a bleak picture, and as often as not the stories retain a strong sense of hope.
While each and every story in the collection is unique, all are consistently imaginative and compelling. I can’t help but agree with Kaaron Warren who, in her introduction to the collection, describes these stories as ‘transformative’
Many of Anderton’s stories defy categorisation into a single discreet genre mould. She expertly weaves genres together to produce what could be described as dark science fiction laced with horror, or psychological horror with a dash of fantasy, or any number of other things.
While I almost never reread books or stories (I have a very good memory for text which often makes it pointless past a few pages) I found myself rereading the stories I had encountered elsewhere purely for the beauty of the language. Doing so merely uncovered new layers and increased my admiration for the author’s skill. I could go on to describe the stories themselves, but in doing so I risk breaking the spell and ruining the experience for new readers. Furthermore, I cannot really pick a favourite story. By the time I finish writing this review it will probably have changed again.
For transparency’s sake I will admit that I have met Jo a number of times and very much like her. I think it would be hard not to. However, that is not the reason why I love this book so very much, nor why I’ve chosen to review it now. The simple fact is that these stories are good. Much more than good, in fact. Anderton has a beautiful way with words and an almost preternatural ability to draw the reader into her strange, wonderful and often disturbing imaginings.
All in all, I urge anyone who loves dark, strange and beautifully written stories to read this collection. You won’t regret it. Furthermore, I imagine this collection and the previously unpublished stories within it will be hot contenders for the Ditmar and Aurealis awards next year. Personally, I can’t wait to read whatever Joanne writes next.
Note: As an added recommendation, my partner, who doesn’t read much fantasy, picked up the book while I was in the shower and read Sanaa’s Army. He wouldn’t give it back or stop reading until he’d finished it. He really enjoyed it and now we both want a ‘Cat Box’ for a pet (read the story for that to make sense).