City of Bones

Posted by : atcampbell | On : December 3, 1996

City of Bones by Martha Wells

On December 3, eight of us met at the FACT Office to discuss City of Bones, written by Texas author Martha Wells. We quickly determined that the book’s cover summary had little to do with its content. Here’s an example from the cover: “a beautiful woman and a handsome thief try to … stop a fanatical cult before they unleash an evil that will … destroy all the water in the world.” In actuality the main female character is not beautiful, the main male character is not a thief, there is no cult, and no mention is made of destroying water. We also had trouble identifying the book’s genre — the spine of the book says “fantasy,” but our opinions ranged from “soft science fantasy” to “fantasy/mystery.” Most of us didn’t like the cover painting either.

After criticizing the book’s packaging we got around to discussing Martha’s story, which involves a post-holocaust future, archaeological puzzles, mutants, evil spirits, and martial arts. We all liked the book quite a bit. Several praised the prose style and felt that the plot structure (solving a series of intermediate puzzles on the way to a final big mystery) was well suited to a long novel. We were pleased by how this book breathed new life into the worn out post-holocaust subgenre. Several of the aspiring writers in our group engaged in an intense analysis of the book’s dramatic structure; their conclusion was the book’s protagonist and its main character were not the same person (Don’t ask me to explain this). One person who’d found part of the story confusing had actually sent Martha e-mail asking for clarification, which Martha provided. Texas writers are something special, aren’t they? We’re all looking forward to her next book.

I’ll wrap this up for now. We have a lot of good reading ahead, and anyone who wants to join us should feel welcome to do so.

— A. T. Campbell, III