Melophobia by James Morris was the second book that I nominated on Kindle Scout that was selected for publication. Because I had nominated it, I received a free copy of the book when it was published. I should have read and reviewed this sooner, but I've been busy with the work for my MLIS degree. The first of my Kindle Scout nominations that has been published by Kindle Press was The Lost Tribe, an alternate WWII baseball fantasy which I reviewed here. That review explains Kindle Scout. So if you're interested, you can take a look.
If you are familiar with this blog, then you know I have a taste for the unusual. Melophobia represents an alternate fate for The Summer of Love in the 1960's. One of the defining attributes of the sixties was its protest songs. What if the authorities struck out at music calling it subversive? What if all music had to be approved, and all unapproved music was banned? This is the harsh dystopian premise of Melophobia.
I noticed a review on Goodreads from someone who didn't understand why the authorities in Melophobia condemned music. I was very young during the sixties, but I was there. So I learned then that music could give voice to rebellion, and that protest was bound up with music. I was exposed to anti-war music, and labor activist music such as the hauntingly beautiful Bread and Roses. I was a huge fan of the Pete Seeger album Dangerous Songs which included historical protest songs such as Die Gedanken Sind Frei (Thoughts Are Free), a German anthem in favor of intellectual freedom of unknown origin. I am also aware that U.S. slaveowners suppressed the music of African slaves and prohibited drumming because they knew that music maintained a sense of cultural identity which would encourage rebellion. There are American Christian sects that are opposed to music because it leads to dancing. Anyone who doesn't know that dance can cause social disruption really needs to see the movie Footloose. Melophobia emerges from this extensive background of music as dissidence. I imagine that Morris expects readers to be aware of it, and grasp the rationale behind his dystopia intuitively. I certainly did. That's why I nominated this novel on Kindle Scout.
The central character, Merrin Pierce, goes undercover in music communities in order to arrest and disband them. Her father, Tarquin Pierce, is the Minister of Broadcast Standards who approves all content created for the purpose of entertainment. Historically, Tarquin was the last Etruscan King of Rome who was reputed to be a terrible tyrant. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that James Morris is aware of this fact. So Merrin was brought up to believe in the suppression of unapproved music, but there is a great deal she doesn't know about what happens to those most resistant to re-education. There is also a secret in Merrin's family history. Learning the horrifying truths that have been hidden from her changes Merrin. She eventually transforms into a true hero.
This is a very dark book. Don't expect happily ever after. Yet there is a glimmer of hope in the end, and that was really all I needed.