Literature / Bone Dance

Bone Dance: A Fantasy for Technophiles is a 1991 urban fantasy/cyber punk novel written by Emma Bull. The protagonist Sparrow makes a living by selling pre-war artifacts in a post-nuclear war North American city, until being caught in the power struggle against the secret ruler of the city. Contains a lot of hoodoo, tarot, and popular culture reference. Nominated for Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards.

Contains examples of:

  • After the End: The western hemisphere has been largely destroyed by a nuclear war. No one mentions what happens to the other half of the world though.
  • The All-Concealing "I"
  • Angst Coma: Happens to Sparrow after being tortured by Beano.
  • Anyone Can Die: About half of the characters are killed off, in chronicle order: Cass, Dana, Mick, Tom and Dusty.
  • The Atoner: Frances, to the point of being a Death Seeker
  • Body Snatcher: The Horsemen.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Dusty and Myra. Until she kills him.
  • City Noir: The setting.
  • City with No Name: The setting is only referred to as The City, though there are enough locations specified to indicate that it used to be Minneapolis, where Bull was living at the time.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Headfights among Horsemen, plus Sparrow against Tom Worecski.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: The Big Bad Tom Worecski keeps his host alive, while Frances, while being one of the good guys, has already killed her current host.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Sparrow, first briefly while watching the archives burn, then again after being raped by Beano.
  • I Should Write a Book About This
  • Line-of-Sight Name: A sparrow is the first thing Sparrow saw after waking up for the first time.
  • Missing Time: That's where Sparrow realizes there's something strange happening.
  • The Mole: Mick Skinner is working, if unwillingly, for Tom Worecski. Ironically, Frances works this out immediately, but when she finds out she's wrong about where Tom is she assumes she must be wrong about this as well.
  • Mystical Waif: Sherrea.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: It's heavily implied that Beano rapes Sparrow, but whatever happens isn't described.
  • Sex by Proxy: Due to a post-possession mental link, Sparrow gets to—very unwillingly—eavesdrop on Frances and Mick.
  • Shout-Out: At one point Sparrow listens to an old album; it isn't named, but the lyrics are from Another Way to Travel by Cats Laughing, of which Bull was a member.
  • Tarot Motifs: All chapters are named after a tarot card, and tarot readings are sometimes used to foreshadow the fate of characters.
  • Watching Troy Burn
  • We Can Rule Together: Tom offers this to Fran. She is not impressed.
  • Asexual: Sparrow