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Napier’s Bones

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Derryl Murphy. 320 p. Published March 2011 by ChiZine Publishers.  Advanced review copy provided in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who Cares? Adult Science Fiction / Suspense

Short Bio: (from ChiZine Publishers) 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 two continents, with two unlikely companions in tow and a numerate of unfathomable strength hot on his tail. Along the way are giant creatures of stone and earth, statues come alive, numerical wonders cast over hundreds of years, and the very real possibility that he won’t make it out of this alive. And both of his companions have secrets so deep that even they aren’t aware of them, and one of those secrets could make for a seismic shift in how Dom and all other numerates see and interact with the world.

Eyewitness Account: This is the second ChiZine galley I’ve read (I read both this last weekend) and, like Eutopia, it has a very unique and intriguing plot.  Murphy posits a Matrix-like world in which a few select people can not only see the “numbers” that make up our world, but they can also manipulate them to defy normal physical laws (a la Obi Wan and The Force).  Dom, the main character, is thrown in with the ghost-like shadow of a former numerate and a newbie who is just discovering her mathematical gift.  As they are hotly pursued by the most powerful numerate in history, Dom gets a whole new education in the nature of  numbers and how numerates can use and abuse them.

Although the books are nothing alike, I found myself comparing Napier’s Bones to Eutopia – perhaps because they both bore the distinctive ChiZine mark of somewhat bizarre plots.  However, where Eutopia was strong on characterization but slightly weak on plot and setting, Napier’s Bones  is much the opposite.  The “numerate” world was very believable and engaging – something I could see Hollywood picking up and exploiting for its awesome special effects and endless possibility of plot lines.  The fast-paced storyline kept me turning pages from the beginning, and the author deftly walked the thin line of describing the “rules” of the numerate world without info dumping.  The only major weakness, in my opinion, was the character development – they all fell a little flat and never managed to take on any real personality (I couldn’t picture which actor would play them in a movie adaptation – which is how I know they could have been fleshed out a bit better). 

The long dead mathematicians and poets that Murphy pulls into the present numerate world are kind of fun and I learned a few things I didn’t know.  If you want a great explanation for how John Napier’s “Bones” actually work, check out this website

This would be a great summer reading pick, especially for readers who like action, math, or science fiction.

Notable Quotes:

“You came to the city where I was sent, to the artefact that I was sent to watch, and at this moment I choose to believe that maybe Fate does exist, the hand of God rather than the serendipity of numbers.”

“The further she travelled the easier it was to focus on learning from the numbers and to use less of her attention on the actual travel.  Less focus on the travel and therefore her surroundings meant less focus on time, which paradoxically meant that less time actually changed for her.”

Other Books Read by This Author: None.

What are other people saying? Fantasy Book Critic, Missy’s Reads & Reviews, The Crow’s Caw


★★★★ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆