Blair's Reviews > A Song for a New Day

A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker
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bookshelves: 2019-release, near-future-soft-sf, read-on-kindle, netgalley, first-novels

In the near future, the USA is a very different place. After a spate of bombings and the outbreak of a deadly virus known colloquially as 'the pox', public gatherings are forbidden. Live concerts and sport are things of the past. It becomes more common to study, work and socialise in virtual reality, and many young people never leave their homes. 24-year-old Rosemary is one of them, but she's becoming restless. When she's blown away by a virtual concert organised by a company called StageHolo, Rosemary applies to work for them and (to her own surprise) is employed as a talent scout. The job leads her to cross paths with another important character: Luce, who was an up-and-coming musician in the world 'Before', and now runs an illegal underground club.

Luce's fierce love of music and Rosemary's quest to break out of her isolated existence are both fascinating threads. I started off totally on board with the plot. Luce's passion felt authentic, and I loved reading about Rosemary as she tried to get to grips with the difficulties of meeting people in real life – in many ways a perfect analogue of what it's like to move through the world when you have social anxiety. This is a book that's generally very kind to its characters – their insecurities and foibles, the areas in which they lack experience or knowledge – and the diversity of the cast is handled well too (with, for example, white not being treated as the default).

But I have to say that by the halfway point I was ready for the story to be over. That's not because it's boring or badly written – there are loads of great ideas in here, and some scenes/moments are truly beautiful – but something's off with the pacing; things seem to get going, then... tail off. It's never clear how this world's version of virtual reality works, and I was constantly getting distracted by what seemed to be contradictions, or details that simply didn't make sense, particularly around how the 'hoodies' were supposed to work. Plus, crucially, Luce and Rosemary are more interesting individually than they are together.

Really, I probably shouldn't have finished this. The problem was that by the time I'd realised it wasn't going anywhere great, I'd already read almost 200 pages, and felt like I was too immersed in the story to just give up. That's my problem – 'dumping' a book I've spent several days on is something I need to get better at. A Song for a New Day is a likeable story with a few flaws, and I'm sure it will work better for some readers than it did for me. Pick it up if you're interested in reading about music and human connection and don't mind rambling, meandering scenes; avoid if you're looking for a propulsive plot and/or an effective depiction of near-future society.

I received an advance review copy of A Song for a New Day from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Reading Progress

July 9, 2019 – Shelved
August 6, 2019 – Started Reading
August 8, 2019 –
August 9, 2019 –
August 9, 2019 – Finished Reading

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