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Napier's Bones

3.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  207 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
What if, in a world where mathematics could be magic, the thing you desired most was also trying to kill you?

Dom is a numerate, someone able to see and control numbers and use them as a form of magic. While seeking a mathematical item of immense power that has only been whispered about, it all goes south for Dom, and he finds himself on the run across three countries on tw
ebook, 253 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by ChiZine (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 609)
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Ben Babcock
Do you ever feel like you have let down a book, not the other way around? That if you had been smarter, funnier, prettier, then the book wouldn’t have broken up with you by text message and started dating your friend, who really isn’t all that much prettier than you and has terrible taste in clothing and music and restaurants anyway? No? Just me? OK. I kind of feel that way about Napier’s Bones.

I first heard of this book from a “Big Idea” piece on John Scalzi’s blog. It sounded amazing: mathemat
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
For me, reading Napier’s Bones was very much like reading a book in Slovenian or Spanish – I understood most of it if I read slowly enough, but those big words I didn’t understand were the most important ones for the story. Except that a dictionary wouldn’t be nearly enough in this case. A degree in math would.

I have to admit that this was a fantastic idea, but it was poorly executed. The end result is a very confusing and incomplete worldbuilding that led to many passages like:
Dom stood on the
brian dean
Sep 02, 2011 brian dean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the book but I am torn by the depiction of magic. In the book, magic is displayed and controlled by numbers, and that is an original-enough idea to catch my attention, but the concept never seemed fully worked out. Consider: many great historic mathematicians were also magicians, but so were Shakespeare and William Blake. The main character 'saw' numbers and used prime numbers frequently but specified that he had no special mathematical training. The numbers seemed to threaten in the way ...more
Hal Bodner
With NAPIER'S BONES, Derryl Murphy has managed a truly impressive feat. In one stroke he has created a work of literature which is both tremendously exhilarating in its originality and bitterly disappointing in the execution.

For the former, Murphy has created a completely original fictitious world requiring his readers to put aside all preconceptions and to simply dive in and immerse themselves, unquestionably, in Murphy's constructs. For the first two thirds of the book, the reader will be wel
3.5 stars.

On the whole, I liked the story. It's fast-paced and full of action. This leaves the characters with little time to reveal themselves, but also avoids any risk of listening to them whine. It's a straightforward adventure, nothing more, so I won't be to harsh with it but I have to say that I usually prefer stories that focus on the characters and their interactions. The use of the 3rd person doesn't help at all. It made everything seem more distant; this is especially true during the fi
Napier's Bones is a very entertaining mix of sf and UF; the structure is all UF (evil being with superpowers, awakened in our day and time wants to take over and change all, good guys have to stop it but to start they are too puny, so there are chases, hidden powers, unexpected allies and all the paraphernalia of traditional fantasy set in our world and time) but the content is all sfnal since the conceit of the novel is numbers as magic and there is a lot of real fun numerology - I have no idea ...more
Missy (Missy's Reads & Reviews)
Every once in a while, you find a book that confuses you yet utterly dazzles you at the same time. Napier's Bones is that book for me. I really think the confusion for me was all things mathematics-related. To put it nicely, I will never be a mathlete - ever. Any word related to math boggles my mind. ;)

Other than that, this book was amazing. It was easy to get into and well-written. The characters felt a little more like stock characters than extraordinarily unique ones, but they were developed
Sarah (Workaday Reads)
A book where numbers are magic?! It's the ultimate book for math geeks! This story is so cool (says the accountant-in-training). I couldn't rewrite the summary because it encompassed everything beautifully. It did leave a few details out. Dom is accompanied by Billy, the adjunct (a ghost that lives inside his mind and can speak and control his body), and Jenna, a fellow numerate who is just learning to control the numbers.

Billy was such an interesting character. I loved the idea of him being an
May 17, 2011 Ellen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable novel about a world much like ours but in which some people, aka numerates, can manipulate numbers to their advantage. One such numerate Dom, is searching for a mathematical treasure in the desert when he's attacked.

After regaining consciousness he discovers another being inside him and the story turns into a road trip with Dom, his "passenger," and a young woman traveling across Canada to prevent a very powerful, very nasty numerate from dominating the world.
Mar 07, 2012 Shay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing world-building. Unobtrusively but uniquely Canadian. Would love to read more set in the same world. The only quibble I had was that I felt like I was reading it despite the characters rather than because of them. I wanted to know more about Arithmos and his kind, but was indifferent to Dom and Jenna.
Apr 25, 2015 Harris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, canada
I always thought there was something a little sinister, kind of eldritch, about mathematics- I guess we fear what we don’t understand. So “Napier’s Bones,” which posits a world in which “numerates” are able, through some ill defined ability, to see and harness and the power of numbers to accomplish some very odd things, had an intriguing premise.

In "Napier's Bones," we are thrown right into the thick of the action as Dom, a low rent numerate willing to stoop to just about anything for a little
Jul 07, 2011 jayson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a REALLY fun story and a GREAT concept. I must say that at first I was really not digging the author's writing style, it seemed choppy, and everything was just explained and nothing actually seemed to be happening. It may be that the first part of the book is unedited or the author's notes or ... well not sure but it reminded me of my writing (I try to write but the result is usually bad) and I was not liking it. I read it because Cory Doctorow recommended it, and I was wondering, at the ...more
the golden witch.
(3.5/5 stars)

This has a very interesting premise - math as magic! There's always been something magical about math and numbers to me, even if I am rather math-stupid (I barely got past algebra II in school and stopped after that). Still, this was a pretty great read, even with the creepy love triangle thrown in.

There was a bit too much focus on the math itself, but the rest was wonderful. Murphy has a talent for sensory language, though he did a lot of telling over showing for the first part of
Mar 20, 2011 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Math is the language of the universe. A bold statement, but a true one. Dialects and language barriers divide our world into smaller and smaller pieces, but mathematics remains a universal constant—a reality we can use to define one another and the means by which our world and all worlds exist, rather than the verisimilitude faith and social artifices provide. Mathematical rules—numbers and nigh-unfathomable calculations, to be more precise—are the heart of Derryl Murphy’s upcoming supernatural ...more
Kurt Daw
Jun 15, 2011 Kurt Daw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book on a recommendation from Cory Doctorow, whom I really respect, and found it immediately absorbing in a slightly William Gibson-ish way, although with more fantasy and a lot more mathematical references. More as I progress.

Finished with the novel now. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, and in the end, more mathematical than I had anticipated. You don't ever have to do any number crunching, but the novel is a great deal more apprehensible if you know a little about the uncertai
Apr 21, 2012 Nicole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would probably more accurately give this book 3 1/2 stars.

I thought the concept was great and the writing held up well, but the last few chapters get a little hard to follow (which I'm sure was somewhat intentional as what's happening at that point in the story is somewhat confusing for the main character, but it risks losing the reader along the way). Mainly I thought the book ended somewhat abruptly; I was expecting a bit more of a conclusion and explanation.

But, an enjoyable read nonetheles
Ken Schafer
I think it's best to approach this novel as if it was a less-funny Christopher Moore. There is SO much invention going on here that it's pointless trying to look for any logic (even within the context of the world Murphy has created).

Had I not been expecting more I'd probably have a bit happier with the overall result.
David Fox
Aug 21, 2015 David Fox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the kind of fiction I usually read, but I was captivated by this imaginative work of fantasy by Saskatoon's own Derryl Murphy. Couldn't put it down.
Nicole Jones-Dion
Great premise but disappointing delivery.
Suzanne Paschall
Nov 08, 2012 Suzanne Paschall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lily E
Aug 07, 2011 Lily E rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, science, arc, fiction
C.C. Thomas
I was skeptical about reading this book. The blurb about it advertised math as some sort of positive thing, a math mystery. I am the complete opposite of math-illogical, unreasonable and I have serious trouble with anything involving numbers. I often confuse phone numbers, birth days and I am one of a handful of women who occasionally forget their own anniversary (the 3rd or the 4th).

But, I love mysteries so I forged ahead.

I should have listened to my first instinct.

The initial part of the book
Terry Weyna
Imagine being able to manipulate numbers to do magic, just as so many fictional wizards manipulate words, as spells, to accomplish their ends. Imagine seeing everything as a number, with formulae streaming into the air from every physical thing, allowing you to bend and change them — using your abilities to smear a license plate into a new number, say, or blurring the serial numbers on dollar bills. It gives new meaning to the word “numerate.”

Derryl Murphy’s protagonist in Napier’s Bones is a nu
What a strange book. Not surprising coming from Chizine Publishing, whose tag line is "Embrace the Odd" but still quite strange. The concept of numbers and math as a form of magic is an intriguing one, if a bit hard to follow at times. I think I may have gotten more out of it if I was good at math and understood more of the terms they used in the book. That said, if you can just accept the magic as a vague concept and not worry too much about the details, you'll follow it reasonably well.
I liked
Jan 03, 2014 Daniella rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: czp-reads
I wanted to like this book far more than I did. While the concept was really fascinating, it didn't translate well for me. Perhaps because I'm not any good at math. I found most things near the end brilliant and exciting, and it was probably my favourite part of the entire book. I felt that not very much happened despite the constant action of the book. Two (and a half) strangers are thrown together in a shitty situation and have to try to defuse it. I felt like actual world-building was replace ...more
Napier's Bones, by Derryl Murphy is a very original novel. In centers around Don who is a numberate. A numberate is a person that can create powerful magical effects through the control of numbers. Almost at once, three important and intense things happen to Dom. First he has a shadow of a dead numerate named Billy move into this body. Next he meets a lovely young woman named Jenna who is an untrained numberate, but of an odd sort that he has never seen. Lastly, he discovers that the long dead m ...more
Scott Williams
I hate math. My brain was not built for numbers. However, I disagree with those who say a knowledge of mathematics is required to read this book. I understood it completely and I appreciate the concept. The idea of math as magic is a very creative premise but I don't think it was executed as well as it might have been. While reading, I was always aware that I was reading. I never got lost in the story or truly engaged with the characters. From the first page, it felt like you were rushing toward ...more
May 07, 2013 Jen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although it's nice to see someone try to incorporate "math" (disappointingly just numbers, not the creative or puzzle-solving aspects of mathematics) into the foundations of a fantasy/magic system, this wasn't particularly well executed or developed. The novel was certainly an easy read, and the dialogue not jarring. But overall I found the characters underdeveloped, and the magic system based on numerics unfortunately "matrix-esque", without the benefit of compelling action nor the benefit of o ...more
Jun 13, 2011 Louise rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really, really wanted to love this book, but I just didn't. Magical systems are always poised upon a knife's edge of implausibility, but I didn't really have the sense that Murphy himself really believed in his numbers or at very least, I never had the sense of their realness. All of the passages describing how numeracy works felt overly wordy, and underly convincey. I thought the characters, especially the main character, were pretty skimpy folks, with not much fleshing them out. I'm going to ...more
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Derryl Murphy lives with his wife, boys and dog in Saskatoon, where he is deeply involved in a life of soccer and writing. His short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies since his first sale in the early '90s. His first book, the collection of eco-SF Wasps at the Speed of Sound, was released by Prime Books in 2005, and in 2009 Cast a Cold Eye, a novella co-written with William Shunn, ...more
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