Book Review: Bone Dance by Emma Bull

I recently read Bone Dance by Emma Bull as part of my Asexual Reading list for 2018.

“Sparrow’s my name. Trader. Deal-maker. Hustler, some call me. I work the Night Fair circuit, buying and selling prenuke videos from the World Before. I know how to get a high price, especially on Big Band collectibles. The hottest ticket of all is information on the Horsemen – the mind-control weapons that tilted the balance in the war between the Americas. That’s the prize I’m after. But it seems I’m having trouble controlling my own mind. The Horsemen are coming…”

“Here before me was the familiar exercise of my faith, the Deal. The exchange was only its sacrament, the symbol of larger principles. Nothing Is Free. One way or another, you will pay your debts; better you should arrange the method of payment yourself.” (Page 48).

I’ve been really far behind on my reading goals and also not doing a very good job of posting book reviews when I finish a book. I’ve read a lot more than indicated by the silence here for the last several months. My Asexual Reading list for 2018 had me reading this in September and it’s now November. My concept of time is completely skewed right now so I have no idea when I actually read this, other than it was sometime fairly recently.

This book was unbelievably far ahead of its time. The main protagonist is non-binary before there was common terminology for it. Sparrow is also touch and sex-repulsed, making this individual the first truly asexual character I’ve read without any romantic subplot whatsoever. So while no romantic or sexual subplots existed, Sparrow still found love and acceptance through friendship that turned into family. I found this positive example of interpersonal relationships refreshing.

I also found this book to be incredibly imaginative, as it clearly showed a realistic dystopian future where we would have remnants of our previous world. The rich and powerful sought out nostalgic memories of movies from the past and paid high prices for them on the black market. The rich and powerful also control the use of electricity throughout the city, which is a clear demonstration of how classism crosses all realms, even the dystopian future. The technology use in this book, and the reverence for that technology, interested me and also caused a severe emotional issue during later chapters in the book. But since I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, I’m not going to go into detail about the extra-powerful, heart-wrenching scene that caused me genuine distress.

Page 130 described the world before the future this book with a dialogue between two characters: ‘”Having never lived in a nation,” I said, “I wouldn’t know.” Frances turned her face away, as if I’d slapped her. “Don’t worry, you’re not missing much. A wretched anthill of peaceful, productive, useful life with hardly any invigorating biting and scratching. Where people flossed once a day and mowed the lawn on Sundays.”‘ This description of what’s actually our current world amused me greatly.

Which brings up a very good point about this book. There are two extremely potent and very traumatic events in this book, one of which involves rape. So if that’s a trigger for you, be cautious when reading this book.

The book also understands what it means to be an introvert. There’s a section on page 211 where Sparrow is thinking about what it means to be someone on your own in a crowded world: “I’d never wondered why I could be comfortable here and twitchy in a group of four people. The answer, now that I thought about it, was easy. The streets and stalls of the Night Fair were the opposite of intimacy. To be one of four was to be a focal point; to be one of hundreds was to be anonymous as sand on the shore.” The characters in this book are so absolutely human that the relationships are natural and the interactions real. The later chapters even deal a lot with rebuilding yourself and your life when you’ve lost everything. That whole section hit me really hard as a keen reminder of everything I’ve been through, especially around page 248.

Overall, this book was far more than I was expecting. It hit me in a very powerful and memorable way. I absolutely enjoyed having a non-binary and sex-repulsed person as the main character and having that main character not wind up being a bad person. I would actually rate this book as a low four on my rating scale. I’m glad I purchased it and I will likely read it again in the future.

Bull, Emma. Bone Dance. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 1991.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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One Response to Book Review: Bone Dance by Emma Bull

  1. Alex Logan says:

    Sounds like a book I need to read!

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