Get ready to meet my nightmare.
I love music. By which I mean: I love the actual sounds that come out of my speakers when I put an album on. I don’t own a record player, I’m not a Knower of the Trivia (although there is a ton of useless stuff rattling around in my head), I’m not the sort of person who would make fun of you for liking something, or to pester you with useless facts or some abstract justification for why I think your taste in music is wrong. I’m not that kind of guy. I think I used to be, though. And for that, among many other things, I apologize.
I’m also a musician. Much of that, for now, is personal. I write songs, I practice everyday, but I haven’t really shared anything with the world. That will change, if I ever get my courage up. It used to be that playing guitar would be the only thing that would reliably stop a panic attack. This is of no help if I’m not near my guitar, and it made my house my one and only “safe space,” which isn’t a good way to deal with anxiety. So I’ve grown beyond that. But I still practice everyday, and I think it keeps me calmer overall.
The world presented in Emma Trevayne’s Coda and Chorus is one that terrifies me. That’s not easy. I’ve read lots of stories set in dystopic futures, but none have put the fear in me like those two. I’m not afraid of a ruling class that makes children fight to the death for their amusement. But a ruling class that uses music as an addictive mind-control drug and outlaws all other forms of musical expression? It kept me up at night, y’all. I’m serious. It’s the stuff the nightmares.
And that’s the world of Coda and Chorus. It’s nightmare-fuel.
In Coda, we follow eighteen-year-old Anthem, who works as a conduit during the day (they basically harvest energy from his body) and plays in a secret band by night. It’s risky, and the punishment is severe if they ever get caught, but him and his friends can’t live without that music, played on homemade instruments (and a black-market guitar) in a basement under an abandoned building.
And the music they make… well, how to describe it? That’s been a tough one for any author. In a lot of books, you get a description of the instruments, maybe (“pounding drums” and such), but the music really only serves as background texture. In these books, the music feels more alive, like it is the narrative rather than just being a part of it. A neat trick, to be sure, and from someone who is clearly a lover of music.
Chorus is the sequel to Coda, the second in a two-book series. It’s eight years later and Anthem’s sister Alpha is living far outside the influence of the Corporation, the ones who turned music into drugs. If I say any more, it’ll get too spoiler-y. And I don’t want that on my conscience.
There are more than a few pleasant surprises in these books. They’re classified as Young Adult, but like all good YA stories, they aren’t just for teens. As much as I love Coda and Chorus, I must admit that I haven’t gone back to re-read them after that first time. I think it’s because the world in which those characters live, as described in the book, is just so deeply unpleasant. It’s like having a friend that you enjoy spending time with, but they live in a bad neighborhood, so you’ll think of all sorts of reasons to not go visit them. One day, I’ll find my courage. I promise.
See you next time.