REVIEW and EXCERPT
by James Morris
Author James Morris stops by today to share an excerpt from Melophobia. You can also read my review.
Melophobia: fear or hatred of music.
The time - now; the place - America, but in a world where the government controls all forms of art and creativity. Any music sowing the seeds of anarchy is banned - destroyed if found - its creators and listeners harshly punished.
Merrin Pierce works as an undercover Patrol officer assigned to apprehend a fugitive musician who threatens the safe fabric of society, only to confront everything she thought to be true – her values, upbringing, job, and future.
Can love survive in a world without music?
Melophobia: fear or hatred of music.
"Rock has always been the Devil’s music … I believe rock and roll is dangerous … I feel we’re heralding something even darker than ourselves."
~ David Bowie, Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976
~ David Bowie, Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976
He stood outside, his hand lifted to bang on the door, when he hesitated for reasons he couldn’t name. Flush with adrenaline, his heartbeat accelerated; his hearing sharpened, and even his skin felt the slightest change in pressure. Desert air blew against his face, drying his perspiration, and his caged energy contrasted with his desolate surroundings: a lone warehouse on the outskirts of Los Angeles bathed in the glow of a Hunter’s moon.
He enjoyed the silence – his moment of Zen. It reminded him of playing football in high school, positioned across an opponent seconds before the hike, an eternity of stillness before acceleration. He took a deep breath and centered himself, hearing the breath move past his nostrils, expanding his belly and exhaling slowly.
He looked at his watch. It was time.
He banged on the thick metal door, breaking the monotony of the night. A small window clanked opened on the door revealing a man with a crumpled, fat face.
He cleared his throat. “I’m on the list. Anders Copeland.”
The bouncer looked at him from behind the safety of the barred window and scanned over a clipboard. A moment later, Anders heard a bolt slide and the door swung open. He walked into the warehouse, past the bouncer and descended a long flight of stairs funneling him down a narrow, darkened hallway. Echoing behind him, the door slammed shut.
A single light bulb dangled, casting shadows outside its cone of light. For every step Anders took, he moved towards darkness, leaving the safe cocoon of the outside world behind.
Rusty pipes dripped water onto the floor. His feet sloshed through the occasional puddle, wafting up the unmistakable smell of urine and stale beer. A large door awaited him at the end of the stairs, the decline steeper, like an entrance to a mammoth tomb. The air should’ve been cooler as he continued, but instead it was hot and sticky. Strange.
He heard it now.
Muffled thumps, like miniature explosions pulsed at regular intervals, growing louder with each stride, attacking his eardrums. He’d never heard it before. The cause of such noise sent his imagination spinning. What the hell was going on behind those doors? What kind of machine or monster – ?
He arrived at the door and patted underneath his jacket, satisfied to feel his revolver still safely hidden.
His stomach churned, and he wanted to run, taking the steps two at a time, leaving all this behind, but his pride kept him where he was. Like an automaton, he saw his arm reach out in front of him and open the door –
And immediately wished he hadn’t.
His senses retreated, on overload. There was no monster, only light & sound & motion –amped to an inhuman degree. A wall of hot air made him feel as if he was breathing wet oxygen; he licked his lips – if sin ever had a taste, this was it; the room smelled of illegal cigarette smoke comingled with sweat and desire; the pounding of noise at deafening levels, the treble notes screeching, more penetrating than a dentist’s drill, and all of it repetitive, without melody, the same eight bars again and again – the sound of insanity, loud and incoherent.
Finally, he witnessed an orgy of bodies “dancing.” Unlike any dance he’d seen – not ballroom, it was even worse than the kind his superiors railed against. Much worse. They looked out of control, spastics on drugs, whirling dervishes worshipping no one, falsely copulating each other, wearing so little as to be almost bare, seeking to leave this reality by sheer excess, and all to the earthquake beats which rose from the floor, through his shoes, up his spine, to his head where they pinballed in his skull.
There was no escape. Every time he felt as if the overwhelming assault was on a downward spiral to quietude, he realized it was only a pause, a hiccup, and it continued in its tornado fashion, crashing over all the people under its spell.
This was more than noise. This was sonic warfare.
The stories he’d heard from his elders were true. No longer fables from the past, but real. Now. This is how the War started last time – the anarchy, the flaunting of the law, the sense of freedom with no limit. He stepped back against the wall for support. The speeding strobe lights made him wince. Crunched over, his dinner spilled out onto the floor. Humiliated, he wiped the taste of bile from his mouth and rolling against the wall, scurried away, losing himself in the maelstrom of the dance floor.
The strobe lights made everything appear segmented, the dancers like ghosts, flicking in and out of existence every half-second. Facial expressions and body postures changed, the art of the grotesque – a hand in space one second, gone the next, a series of photographic snapshots. Blinking once, two women kissed. Blinking again, a man joined the two.
He wished Merrin would’ve warned him, prepared him, told him to stay away. In the corner of the room, he spotted an Asian kid with a hoodie, listening one-handed to headphones, a self-satisfied smirk on his face, commanding a turntable doing … what was the term?
It was so loud he couldn’t think -
“Spinning records.” That was it. The Asian kid was a DJ. More terms were coming back to him. He scanned over the “rave,” the amorphous bobbing of humanity and found a woman dancing in a cage dangling from the ceiling, straining against the “music,” her beauty and revealing black mesh outfit her saving grace. She was a lighthouse at sea attracting all eyes to her. Anders felt guilty lingering over the erotic snapshots of her stroboscopic image, but he’d never seen her like this before and had to admit he liked it. It was Merrin.
Praise for the Book
" ...a convincing alternative history novel and ... an accomplished coming-of-age love story that asks big questions about freedom and expressiveness in the face of oppression." ~ Publisher's Weekly
"A well thought out and cleverly written novel. Plenty of twists and turns and great characters. Highly recommended!" ~ Katherine's Bookcase
"Melophobia blew me away. I'd highly recommend it. One of my top reads of 2015." ~ The Book Lover's Boudoir
"It had everything I love in a book; mystery, a great setting, bit of romance, bit of sex, bit of violence, twists and turns and was overall an extremely satisfying read! I enjoy YA dystopia novels because they help people understand oppression. This book is no exception. I can easily imagine this book becoming the next Hunger Games. It has the potential to be HUGE!" ~ Books, Babies, Being
"James Morris [has written] with the utmost inventiveness in grabbing the reader into a dystopian world I personally don't want to be in. This novel reintroduced my love and appreciation for music tenfold ... Highly recommended folks, highly recommended." ~ Buttonholed Book Reviews
By Lynda Dickson
Melophobia is defined as the "fear or hatred of music". James Morris presents us with an alternate image of our world, where music was criminalized in 1974 after the War on Moral Decay. Playing and distributing music (other than Classical or Musak) is illegal and punishable by four levels of reprogramming called Re-Education or Re-Edging. But is there also a more sinister punishment - the rumored Level 5?
Merrin Pierce and Anders Copeland are members of the Patrol, enforcers of these new laws and undercover agents who infiltrate the underground music scene. In their latest assignment, Merrin and Anders go undercover to try and unmask the Source, the major distributor of illegal music. But as they immerse themselves in their new identities, they both find that music has a way of creeping into your soul. As the lines between good and evil become blurred, Merrin and Anders must re-assess everything they've ever believed in.
This is an intriguing look at what can happen when something we take for granted becomes illegal, in this case, music. The concept is reminiscent of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, where books are outlawed. There are also hints of George Orwell's 1984; there's even mention of a Room 101, also the name of the infamous torture chamber in Orwell's book. A bit slow to start, the action picks up towards the end, leaving the reader with no idea of how things are going to resolve. There is something for everyone here - action, adventure, mystery, romance, and family drama - along with plenty of musical references. My one bugbear is the author's use of "&" in the text.
You'll have a new-found appreciation of music after reading Melophobia.
Warnings: violence, coarse language, sex scenes, drug references.
About the Author
James Morris is a former television writer - with producer credits including "Smallville" and "Crossing Jordan" - who now works in digital media. He is also the author of the Kindle Scout selection What Lies Within. When not writing, you can find him scoping out the latest sushi spot, watching "House Hunters Renovation", or trying new recipes in the kitchen. He lives with his wife and dog in Los Angeles.