California Bones - Greg Van Eekhout

I'm starting this really, really late, but if I don't keep a quote/note page, I'll try to jam it all into the review, and no one wants that.

(I keep my notes and highlights in Kindle as I read, but I don't trust them to actually permanently store them.)


Soundtrack: selections from the full soundtrack of Assassin's Creed Revelations (Balfe/Kyd).  It totally, totally works.  But not the main theme, because I've already used that in a different book.

"Our bodies are cauldrons ... and we become the magic we consume." [2%]

"That's the osteomancer's craft, to draw magic from bones. To capture and store it, to use the creatures' power, guided by human intelligence." [3%]

"It's important you make powerful weapons.  That you be a powerful weapon."


"Because the Hierarch is making very good weapons." [5%]

"Southern California is a lie, Daniel. And Los Angeles is the heart of that lie.  People came here for land and for weather.  They came to build their little garden cities, and to pick oranges as bright as miniature suns.  They came for oil and opportunity. And many of them came for magic.  That's what they were promised, and that's why they came from the east, because this was billed as a newer land, and a richer land, and a more bountiful land.  And there should have been magic enough.  It came from the ground, and up from Mexico, and from across the Pacific, and Los Angeles should have been the paradise they painted on the orange crate labels.  But for the Hierarch, it would the Hierarch's realm, we're all human resources, from the highest osteomancer, to the average citizen, to the wraith slave." [15%]

Heh. Disney had "Imaginancers" and used "a potent distillation of osteomantic intoxicant" to addict people to his movies.  I'm normally strongly opposed to this type of alternate history book.  I don't believe in what Pratchett called (if I abuse his terminology) the Trouser Legs of Time.  I don't believe that history could split way back in the past and that the two legs would still lead to nearly identical presents, with names and people merely altered rather than obliterated.  I don't think the Trouser Legs of Time would lead to two nearly identical shoes--I think a fuzzy slipper on one side would be more likely.  Or maybe a chicken leg. [19%]


Muahaha.  There's a Baron Chandler.  I can't help but be won over. [20%]


The mammoth was always dying.  Mired to her shoulders in the lake of tar, she reached out with her trunk to the dry-grass shore where her mate and calf remained frozen in horror.  The La Brea Tar Pits was a place where the skin of the world broke open to reveal the magic underneath, and the life-sized plaster mammoth sculptures emphasized a very important message: Do not fuck with tar. [27%]

Great civilizations might be born from guns, germs, and magic, but it was bureaucracy that kept them going. [27%]

Omg--Jared Diamond reference! I wonder if he's around.

 "The jar was coated in finely ground firedrake scales, the only substance known to withstand seps venom, but even so equipped, there were a lot of ways he could screw this up.  Spill the venom and it would eat through the jar, the worktable, the floor, the foundation, the fabled dragon heart at the center of the earth, and probably shoot up in an acid geyser on a quiet residential street in China.  So, you know, thought Daniel, don't spill the acid." [38%]

"You could get away with that sort of thing when you controlled all the newspapers and radio and TV stations.  He supposed the power to control what people believed was its own kind of magic." [46%]

SMAC: Los Angeles's Strategic Magical Assault Command squad. Snerk. [48%]

"The Hyakume was a beast made of eyes.  Three dozen vat-grown eyes were planted into sockets in the wall, wired through optic nerves to a security station housed deep in the catacombs.  The eyes kept a constant vigil.  They stared straight ahead.  They had no lids to blink.  As a surveillance system, they were almost perfect.  But they were stupid, mesmerized by their own mirror reflections in the Mylar, and as the crew walked the mirror curtain down the corridor, the eyes saw only themselves." [52%]

"Not everything in Los Angeles was built on magic alone. Some of it was built with slaves.  With prisoners of war.  They built the tunnels with their own bones." [52%]

"The things I ask my friends to do for me, Daniel thought. He could bring himself to ask Moth to die, but he shouldn't ask Cassandra to kill him." [56%]

"With his invisibility miasma extended to include Cassandra, she was in the most danger.  She was in a ghost world, incapable of forming coherent thoughts, of making good decisions.  It was as though she were invisible to herself, and her hand felt insubstantial in Daniel's iron grip." [57%]

"Los Angeles was beautiful when it burned." [58%]

"There was no luck. There was no fairness. There was no justice.  There was the Hierarch and Szu and the Ministry of Osteomancy, and there was the Department of Water and Power." [59%]

"I think when we're killing people, it's appropriate to question the well-being of the soul.  The Hierarch actually ordered us to look into it once.  We developed a chamber electrified with a battery built from an oni demon.  The hope was to euthanize test subjects and store their spirit energy in the chamber.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to conclusively prove the existence of transphysical manifestations.  Though we did manage to kill a lot of test subjects.  And that is how progress is made." [61%]

"They exchanged a look, and what Daniel saw made him understand that on this job, he wasn't just stealing from the Hierarch, but from his friends as well." [61%]

"If you are Daniel Blackland, then the Hierarch will eat you.  If not, I'll dine on you myself.  And on your friends."

"They're not osteomancers." The shears pinched Daniel's nostrils, and his voice sounded nasal. Comical. Hilarious.

"That's all right," said Szu.  "Not every meal needs to be nutritious." [68%]

(show spoiler)

"He should have wondered why.  He should have looked deeper.  Instead, he just accepted.  She loved him. Cassandra loved him. Jo loved him. Moth loved him. He didn't question it.  He just accepted..  He just took it."[70%]

"Daniel was killing a person named Lopez, and the reverberations from this death would travel out in countless unseen directions, like a swarm of Jinshin-Mushi beetles creating earthquakes and toppling buildings in places Daniel would never see." [72%]

"Osteomancy isn't the only kind of magic. Los Angeles is driven by trade and consumption, so osteomancy dominates here.  But labyrinths hold power everywhere." [76%]

"But Daniel was still a thief, which meant he took things and used things he had no rightful claim to, because that was how he and his friend survived." [77%]

Daniel was ashamed he hadn't considered that.  If Moth and Jo and Cassandra were with him, then everyone he cared about was accounted for.  But they all had other friends.  Family. Loved ones." [78%]

"Otis underestimated your loyalty magic...your friends love you.  They would do anything for you.  They would die for you.  They do die for you.  But you never wondered why? Did you think it was your personal charm? Because you're such a great guy? No. It's because your daddy gave you an osteomantic gift that makes people loyal to you.  Because he knew that one of the best protections he could give you was the love of your protectors." [80%]

"A reality of friends, of love, of things Daniel thought given to him out of generosity, dissolved like cotton candy on the tongue." [80%]

(show spoiler)

"The kindom runs on magic, Mr Blackland. But it's the wrong kind of magic. Osteomancy. A consumable. A nonrenewable." [82%]


"And are you, Mr Blackland? Are you living well?"

"Every minute you don't kill me is the very best moment of my life, Mr Mulholland." [82%]

"Maybe he hadn't lived a moral life, and he'd never freed himself from the web of power and exploitation he'd  been born to, but he'd found a way to survive, and he'd found people he cared about, who, maybe against their own will, loved him back.  But somehow he'd alway known he'd be used regardless of his intent.  Sebastian Blackland had stirred him and sculpted him to be a weapon, and in this kingdom, a weapon was too useful a tool to be left alone." [83%]

(show spoiler)

People used to come here to drink coffee.

They played chess and checkers and backgammon and bridge and hearts.

They read Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and the Los Angeles Times and the Chinese Daily News and the La Opinion and the Herald Examiner.  They read the official hagiographies of the mages.  They read westerns and detective novels and fotonovelas.

They wrote poems and plays and novels and screenplays and manifestos.

They did crossword puzzles and sketched and doodled. They met for first dates and blind dates and for immoral and unethical affairs.  They fell in love.

They were beaten with clubs and shoved through plate-glass windows.  They were arrested, and they bled, and they burned. [88%]

"So typical of Los Angeles, a city with deep magic in its bones and arteries, to express its power with film-set realities.  Like the Hierarch, the city showed her true face to few, and to see it, you had to gouge the surface and dig." [89%]

"There are sources of power that don't rely on bones and mandalas.  There is bureaucracy. There is administration. There is the idea of running things for no other reason than things need to be run. There is power fueled by sober responsibility. There is service." [93%]


"I'm not going to eat you," Daniel said with finality. "God, sometimes I hate my hometown." [93%]

"Daniel was an osteomancer. His gift was to gain strength from what he consumed. To take and use magic. To take and use his friends' love and loyalty. Why not take what the boy offered?" [93%]

"The sword was not his secret weapon.  It was just a reminder of what he was, of what his father had designed him to be: a weapon made of his own magic." [94%]

"Why? Why do you need power?"

"Ah," the Hierarch said, just as Sebastian Blackland did whenever Daniel asked a good but unexpected question. "I truly wish I didn't, Daniel. I wish I could stop. But I can't. I can't stop eating. [...] You're a thief, Daniel.  You know if you don't take, you're only waiting until someone else does. I never believed the men who rose to power were the smartest, the most capable, the most deserving.  They're simply the ones who made the decision to claim what anyone else could have." [95%]

"In his system was a mixture of eocorn essence, terratorn coprolite, and high-quality Panthera atrox that made his friends love him and quick to forgive.  He could thank his father for that.  And it was a gift he knew he had to rid himself of, even though the thought of casting it away terrified him." [98%]

"Why do you love me?"

Moth paused, collecting his words.  "Because you, buddy, do have a choice in who you love. And you choose to love your friends." [98%]

(show spoiler)


I'll probably review it Friday or Saturday.actually, it's a netgalley book and doesn't come out until 10 June, so expect my review on 10 May or thereabouts.  It's very good, but intense, and I'm currently mulling over what made it so spectacular. I'll need to let the book talk. 

Hence the quote page.