Melophobia: fear or hatred of music.
The time—now; the place—America, but in a world where the government controls all forms of art and creativity. Any music sowing the seeds of anarchy is banned—destroyed if found—its creators and listeners harshly punished.
Merrin Pierce works as an undercover Patrol officer assigned to apprehend a fugitive musician who threatens the safe fabric of society, only to confront everything she thought to be true – her values, upbringing, job, and future.
Can love survive in a world without music?
I can already tell I’m going to have a hard time telling you just how much I loved this book without getting repetitive and hysterical.
The world that it’s set in - remember V for Vendetta, or Equilibrium? I’ve seen people comparing it to the Hunger Games, which I suppose is a more modern comparison and one that everyone will immediately be able to relate to, but this felt more timeless than that, more tragic, and more….hopeless, I suppose is the word I want to use.
Let me qualify that. In this book, any sort of media which might incite revolution, cause social change, or question the status quo is strictly controlled. Classical music is ok - well most of it, so long as the music doesn’t “arouse too much passion”. (Paganini is still getting the shaft, after all of these years) It’s the same for art, and movies, literature, the whole shebang. What a world, huh? The government churns out what it calls “musak” which as you may have guessed, is not real music, but meaningless background noise. In this world, people have the illusion of being free, but nothing could be further from the truth. The very things that make us human are tightly controlled by a government that seems to be set on creating a perfect “good” society.
This book focuses mostly on the musical aspect of that stranglehold, but we get hints of how other parts of life have been impacted. For example, in this world it’s almost unheard of for a woman to live apart from her parents until she is married. I have to wonder just how far this goes: I’m guessing feminism never came about and since the government suppresses any type of change, I’d imagine that the Civil Rights Movement never occurred either, at least not on the scale that we know. You get the feeling that there’s not a whole lot of equality in this world.
This all came about as the result of a war that began in the Sixties, a war against “moral decay”. Picture this for a minute: the Beatles are arrested, along with the Rolling Stones. Music goes underground, only listened to in secret and fiercely guarded by fans that close ranks to protect those who have the talent to play. How many people down through the years never picked up an instrument out of fear? I wish I could describe to you the horror I feel at the thought of Jimmy Page never picking up a guitar, or of Neil Peart never sitting down behind a drumset. I don’t want to live in a world where Slash was a welder, Eric Clapton an accountant, and Johnny Cash was a mechanic. Just….no, man, I can’t do it.
Merrin Pierce is a true believer: she is a member of the Patrol, and has proved her talents to her superiors by infiltrating and bringing down different factions of musical offenders. She views them with disgust, thinking those who break the law by listening to music are irresponsible and dangerous. She is given the biggest undercover assignment of her career, instructed to find and bring down the Source. The Source is a shadowy figure, a creator of music that is not just being listened to by one genre of fans, but all of them. In order to prepare for her undercover assignment, she has to listen to music, to know it inside out. So the person that claims to hate music is actually one of the most knowledgeable on the subject. Oh, the irony. She infiltrates the rock community, but to her surprise finds herself drawn to the music. She has never had this problem before, and is terribly conflicted about it. It doesn’t help that she is alienated from others due to her status as a Patrol officer. She has to keep the details of her job secret even from those closest to her, adding to her feelings of isolation.
Merrin delves deeper, trying to get closer to the Source. Along the way she finds information that makes her question every belief she has ever held. She starts to see the cracks in the “good” society, and the cracks in the foundation of her own childhood. Merrin is driven by a desperate need to understand her past, but meets with opposition at every turn. Before long she realizes that she has been lied to by everyone; her father, her superiors, even her partner.
What will she choose, when faced with the truth? Is Merrin brave enough to buck everything she has ever been taught, or will she comply, as she has always done? This book isn’t simply a fight about the lawfulness or lawlessness of music. When you get down to it, Merrin is in a struggle for her very soul.
Again, I cannot stress to you enough how much I loved this book. I didn’t just enjoy it. I didn’t just read it. I lived these characters, felt the desperation and emptiness of them. Merrin’s search for truth was so well done that I felt for her along every twist and turn. I can only hope that this author plans to continue this story.
For now, I believe I will put on some Rage Against the Machine and revel in my ability to listen to it as I please.
Till next time,
About the Author:
James Morris is a former television writer who now works in digital media. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching 'House Hunters Renovation', or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles.