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Bone Song

(Tristopolis #1)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  852 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Lieutenant Donal Riordan is working on a bizarre investigation that'll take him into the underbelly of the strange city in which he lives - a city where gargoyles talk, wraiths work in slavery and the undead walk the streets.
356 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2008)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  852 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Start your review of Bone Song (Tristopolis, #1)
An intriguing but wildly inconsistent book.

Imagine, if you will, J.D. Robb's "In Death" series redone with the deathworld of Chronicles of Riddick, the sensibility of a Batman graphic novel, and the magic of California Bones. It's an unusual combination, a Dagwood sandwich of a book if you will, and much of my reading was occupied by puzzling out the details of the world.

"Donal sketched a fingertip salute to the shadows beyond the stone steps. Stuffing his hands in his overcoat pockets, he looke
Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finally after so many false starts and being distracted by other books I have finished Bone Song - it only took me dragging it to China and back to achieve that!

Anyway how was the book - well I will admit I wasn't sure what I was going to be greeted by since I have only read John Meaney's science fiction work in the past. however it did't take me long to realise there was something about his work which I didn't pick up on before.

This was the fact that he is an incredible world builder which sl
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
If I could say one thing about Bone Song, it is certainly unique. I like that Mr. Meaney wrote a book that was entirely out of his imagination. I did see shades of "Blade Runner" and noir/cyperpunk aspects in his story, but he didn't play it safe or familiar in any other way.

The idea of bones having power to run cities, and for necromancers to kill gifted people so they could harness the power of their bones, was something I have not encountered in my reading. It was pretty gruesome, at times, a
A highly original and imaginative mystery set in an alternate world where technology is powered by the bones of the dead and the deceased are enslaved. Very entertaining, despite various weak points in plot, characterization, and pacing.
Sep 20, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of noir, dark imagery, dieselpunk
Bone song is filed under "urban fantasy", but I'd put it under gothic dieselpunk. It takes place in a couple of different urban environs, both of which are left over by some long past (undescribed) civilization who's technology has been mostly forgotten. What does still work in this world is thaumaturgical based magic; "death" is not so much a final destination as a state of being with different shades, including "zombies" which function as living humans but need regular infusions of thaumaturgi ...more
Lolly's Library
I tried, I feel I really did. But I got to Chapter 8--page 85--and could go no further. This is an ambitious book, but the author misplaced those ambitions, putting all his toys in his world-building toybox without leaving anything for development and execution. And that's my main issue with the book, the world building: Yes, it's detailed. However, it's never fully explained. Now, I admit, I hate info dumps and it's a poor writer who uses them to explain how his or her world works. But I also h ...more
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Ooof but this was a struggle. I don't think I've ever been so quickly disappointed with a book I really, really wanted to like. And I'm not even a fan of urban fantasy! But Bone Song is also a noir thriller, and I'm a sucker for those, plus I'd heard the world building was amazing, so I threw myself at the book with abandon...and ended up frequently throwing the book at things (wall, floor, bed, etc.). Let me count the ways...

The Awesome
The world building. Seriously, I love the concept of a pers
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Bone Song is a real odd duck for me. I remember reading it back a few years ago and got bored but was still engaged enough to give it three stars. Now I'm older and have finished it and still give it three albeit for different reasons.

The setting is very different from what I'm used to seeing, combining gothic horror, new weird and film noir into a pretty slick package. 6000 years into an alternate reality future, energy reactors run off the bones of the dead, zombies run not off brains but biom
PJ Who Once Was Peejay
2.5, maybe. I haven't been so disappointed in a book since I don't know when, chiefly because it has such incredible worldbuilding and because the first half of the book absolutely blew me away. I was completely enmeshed in the world and the characters and couldn't wait to get back to it each time I put it down.

About halfway through, though, it seemed to have a schizophrenic breakdown. The previously tight and compelling POVs (split between two main characters) mushroomed into multiple, shallow
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
:/ Read this a while ago. Three, but barely. It's like eating something and you don't know if you like it or not and it smells kinda funny so you make someone else try it and then they smack you.

Best part is the worldbuilding. Fantastic. Dialogue is pretty good. Biggest problem is that I failed to give much of a crap about anyone except perhaps that fliratious elevator ghost who's, alas, more of a secondary character. MC is a dish-sponge just starting to develop a little odour--some texture ther
Sep 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
An absolutely mind-blowing book, one of the best fantasies I've read in YEARS. Dark, dark, dark - this is a world powered by death, in a very literal sense. Wraiths and necromancy provide the security, technology, motivation, and power for the entire city...the entire world...and Meaney has developed an INCREDIBLY complex and engrossing cosmology around this concept. Add to that a very well-crafted police procedural/hardboiled crime novel, and you've got one of the most unique books I've ever ha ...more
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it compelling -- fast-paced, well-written gothic necro noir. I look forward to the sequel.
Graham Levene
May 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The first of a series (The Tristopolis series) this novel features Donal, an investigator for Police Headquarters. Only this police dept is nothing like any department we might have. In fact, Tristopolis is nothing like any city we have on Earth. No, Tristopolis is a city that is powered by the bones of the dead....and apparently it's still a bit....uncomfortable. There are many species inhabiting this city - and working for the police dept. Deathwolves, wraiths, zombies....

In the beginning of t
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it

I picked this up on a total whim and didn't open it until I needed reading material while waiting at the doctor's office.

Then I ended up reading most of it while on "typing breaks" at work. (I do have RSI, but perhaps I did sneak in more chapters than strictly necessarily...)

It's grim and gritty and unflinching and just a touch of wry, set in a world where people swear, "Thanatos!" and wraiths operate the elevators. I think I got captivated when the main character, Police Lieutenant Donal Riorda

Didn't finish. Got halfway through and decided I am not going to waste my time when I have other, far more promising books I could be reading.

Honestly, not that interesting of a premise. Felt like the author was trying way too hard to be gothy. I mean, why bother describing the color of something when 90% of the stuff in your 'creative' 'new' world are the same color? To me, it seemed like just another New York City noir-thriller, but with everything colored black and with a few vague references
Nov 21, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
About halfway through- Wow. This is a very weird world. I am very much enjoying the exctra, throw-away bits, like the 25-hour day, 9-day week, money in denominations of 27, 11, and 3, etc.; yeah, kinda gratuitous, but it makes me NOT try to map it onto buisness as usual, plus it makes me realize how many "alien" cultures in fiction still presuppose a 24-hour day, just for instance. I am very much enjoying that this one mixes it up, even when it's pretty arbitrary.

Now that I'm done- again, wow. T
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Wow. Okay, the beginning was a bit slow and it took me a while to get into the book - but then I couldn't put it down. The world that John Meaney built is stunning, a world where everything runs on the power of the dead, mostly their bones. It's scary and creepy and it takes time to get used to it, to be perfectly honest. The setting aside, this is basically a mystery book. I fell in love with it once Donal joined Laura's team. I'm now really curious how the team members will react to what happe ...more
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was really good, a police procedural in a world where the bones of the dead provide power to run a city. A sorcerer is targeting talented artists, whose dead bodies disappear. Police lieutenant Riordan is recruited by Laura Steele for a task force that pursues the sorcerer. The city/world is fascinating, the characters are interesting, there's a nice balance of action, love/sex, political intrigue, mystery.
Jun 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
I finished it; I didn't like it.
I couldn't begin to care what happened to the main character or why.
The main plot line was handed to the reader in the first 70 pages, then wash, rinse, repeat - supposedly enjoy that the main character doesn't quite repeat himself during the second climax.
Watch main character fail at logic repeatedly!
Watch main character question his sanity while you question why you're still reading!
Read something else instead.
Jul 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, mystery
This book was unusual in its feel. It was a very dark, gothic setting, and at times felt a bit like steampunk meets Knockturn Alley. The story kept me pretty interested, but the execution felt choppy.
Matt Smith
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gothic, Noir, Hard-Boiled...?

This book is the first of a series. Honestly, I bought it almost reluctantly because the premise seemed almost trite and adolescent. It got some glowing reviews from authors I respected though, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I'm very glad I did. Bone Song is a hard-boiled detective story in a Gothic noir setting where the conveniences of modern society are powered by necromantic sciences. The story is well-paced with a nod to most of the hard-boiled detective trope
Roseanna Pendlebury
Apr 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Half the reason I think I have such favourable memories of Bone Song is just how darned weird it is. The story is a fairly uninspired police procedural, you know the sort of thing: big conspiracy, honest cop from a tough background who has to get to the bottom of it, doesn’t know whom to trust, has to cut some corners and break some rules (and other people’s faces) to get results, but ultimately is a good, honest guy and not at all a nasty piece of work who just tortured someone. Even when set i ...more
Aug 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this several years ago and found myself re-reading it recently. I remember liking it more than I did this time, but still found it very interesting.
This is a police procedural with overtones of international intrigue. The difference is that Meaney has created an inventive completely different alternative to the modern world based on magic. It describes a modern society which has skyscrapers, cars, planes, power generation, etc but all done by a magical technology. It has humans as well a
John Alvord
I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Character, at least the good guys are likable and well developed. I do have one nit to pick. There were sections, mostly toward the end, in which the focus of the action frequently switched locations. Maybe it's just me, but I found these switches confusing. For me, an indication of the switch would have been helpful. Something as simple as a line with dots in the middle to mark the change would have helped.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I originally read Bone Song years ago, and have recently re-read both it and Black Blood. I remember liking it better the first time around. This time, the flat, unrealistic "romance" was even more lifeless (pun intended) than I remembered it being. Meany's habit of putting "hex" in front of everything started to really get on my tits as well - a "hexzooka", really?

Honestly, the Tristoplis novels aren't pseudo-noir thrillers, they're 80s action films with necromancy.
Tony Entrekin
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This was an interesting mix of Gothic, horror, fantasy, sci-fi, and noir detective, up to a point. Somewhere I got lost and ended up not even sure what was happening. I have a feeling it's a better book than it seems and I might give it another try somewhere down the road. There's a second in the series which I will probably read.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kathy-s-shelf
Interesting concept - that our bones hold our memories & that these can be accessed by Bone Listeners. They are also used for fuel to power a city. And there are zombies (I never read a book with zombies, though these are not the typical zombies that I've seen pictured in movies & on tv). I will order the next book in the series. ...more
Nov 09, 2020 added it
Incredible book, lyrical writing, plus gritty dialogue, humor, love story, zombies, wraiths. Part crime fiction, horror, sci-fi,fantasy and magic!
Characters and dialogue stay in your head, 2 more books and 2 short stories in the tristopolis series!!!!! PKD meets Edgar Allan Poe!!!
Ch J Loveall
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Love this series. Noir is a wonderful genre! The end is twisted
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John Meaney also writes as Thomas Blackthorne. ...more

Other books in the series

Tristopolis (2 books)
  • Dark Blood (Tristopolis, #2)

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