Melophobia - James Morris
The book starts off with this quote:

"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

May he rest in peace.


The story opens from the perspective of Anders, Merrin's partner in the Patrol. He's attending a rave party in undercover mode. Together with Merrin, he's trying to bust the party and get everyone arrested for playing music. I'd hate to give too much away here, but that is one HELL of an opening scene!
We then switch to Merrin's perspective and pretty much stay there for the rest of the book. This transition adds even more brilliance to the opening scene. It's like a movie where we're introduced to the main character through the eyes of a side character. I love that concept!

So, listening to music is a crime. Owning music an ever bigger crime. Making music is a top notch crime. Distributing it...YIKES!

In this dystopian version of America, there has been a big national war somewhere in the 60's. Needless to say, the side which thought music was a sin has won and is now in charge of the State, ruling from the Ministry and sending out officers of the Patrol to irradicate music. The only exception being Musak, a dull version of music which is allowed to be played in elevators and shopping malls and mostly numbs the brain instead of activating it. Whenever a person is caught engaging in music, there are 4 levels of punishment, depending on the severity of the crime:

"Level One was akin to a Traffic School parole program for first-time or juvenile offenders. Level Two incorporated an ankle bracelet device that traced aural levels, alerting authorities if certain thresholds of decibels or melody were crossed ; it was worn for a period of no less than two years. Level Three included an intense psycho-pharmaceutical process of creating a gag reflex to music; much like a Pavlovian experiment, successful offenders found they could no longer tolerate hearing music without experiencing headaches, vomiting and vertigo. Level Four increased the methods of Level Three, making the offender's ears literally bleed and in severe cases prompting "aural sterilization," i.e. deafness."

I own and play at least five musical instruments myself. Imagine what would happen to me if I was found out!
When it becomes clear that there's a person called 'The Source' who is making all kinds of genres of music, really good music, in fact, brilliant music, and distributing it him-/herself, Merrin and Anders are ordered to go undercover again, track him down and by doing so, destroying the biggest music leak ever.

The story is fast-paced, the characters are well developed, the world building is great. It's like Orwell's 1984 meets the Bourne film series. There's action, paranoia, romance, and a disturbing thriller setting with spies!
Based on my level of enjoyment and the writing style which made me fly through the book, really, I'm giving it 4.5 stars

However! I do have a two questions for the author and/or you guys when it comes to consistency:

1. If music was banned in the 60's, how come all the well-known songs of today have been written and made popular all the same in this version of America? Is it because the rest of the world doesn't have a ban on music?

2. The entire nation's TV programming consists mainly of black and white old movies. My first thought was: isn't there a shitload of music in most of those?

Then I've got one point of true criticism which made me reduce my rating by half a star in the end: the punk scene. As a lover of punk music, I thought it was a bit silly to make the whole scene and the people in it sound so stereotypical. It's like they're nothing but a violent and aggressive bunch, out for destruction. I admit there's a lot of playful aggression going on in the moshpits, but there's only a certain amount of people participating in that anyways. Whenever I go to a metal concert, for example, and I notice a moshpit is opening up, I'll make sure to get as far away from it as possible, while still enjoying the music. I know a distinction had to be made between different genres of music fans, but making it sound as if all punkers are some sort of reincarnation of Sid Vicious is a bit too judgemental if you ask me.

A big thank you to James Morris for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review!