There have been some memorable movie tag lines over the years. ‘In space, no-one can hear you scream’, ‘Check in. Unpack. Relax. Take a shower’, and ‘Man is the warmest place to hide’ (kudos if you know all three) are some which immediately spring to mind. However, I can’t recall ever being compelled to read a book just from the tagline. That is, until I saw the cover for Joe Ollinger’s 10,000 Bones;
‘On a planet where calcium is cash, the black market trades in bone’
High concept and macabre sounding science fiction? Hell. Yes.
10,000 Bones tells the story of Taryn Dare, a collections agent on the planet Brink, whose job is to recover calcium from the black market so that it can be reintroduced into society as currency. Brink, which feels like a cross between Tatooine and the American Wild West, is deep and vivid in its imagining; the planet and its inhabitants feel incredibly real and detailed. Ollinger, perhaps inspired by current trends back on planet earth, has created a world where the contrast between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ pervades so many elements of the book. While the wealthy spend their time in beautiful modern buildings with access to extravagant off-world luxuries, those less well-off don’t even have access to enough calcium to remain healthy, often resorting to selling their body parts to try and survive.
While the book’s concept and setup are very well executed, I felt that the plot soon lost its appeal. What starts off as a science-fiction inspired mystery story devolved rather rapidly into a rather generic thriller. If I’m being honest, it was my interest in Brink and Ollinger’s universe that saw me through to the end rather than a desire to find out Taryn’s fate. Furthermore, the romance element involving Taryn and Brady, which seemed forced and unnecessary, was wholly uninteresting. The character of Brady felt flat and unbelievable, something noted even by Taryn herself on multiple occasions.
As I’ve said, the book’s premise, and the universe in which it takes place, was of great interest to me. With the book’s open ending hinting at the possibility of sequels being written, I would be excited to learn more about Brink, Farraway, and many of the other planets that the human race has settled on. Just as Taryn decides to give her home planet a second chance, I would be willing to give Ollinger a second chance were he to write a sequel. He gathered all of the right pieces for a great sci-fi novel, he just wasn’t able to assemble them all together.
– The Librarian
Thanks to Diversion books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review