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Claude Lalumiere's Fantastic Fiction
The Bone House

by Luanne Armstrong

(New Star, CAN$21, 277 pages, trade paperback; published in December 2002.)

In the near future, multinational corporations will own everything, from information to cover scanland to social services. The cost of food, fuel, and services will be prohibitive. Cities will become chaotic and dangerous. Climate will be extreme and unpredictable. Environmental protection will become a convenient excuse for corporations to appropriate land and resources. Youth will feel that the greed of older generations robbed them of their future and their present.

Luanne Armstrong's The Bone House takes place in this all too likely and unpleasant future. But its focus is much more intimate.

Lia flees Vancouver after being ripped away from her grandmother by a gang of raiders. She is looking for her grandmother, who may have returned to their farm in northern British Columbia, and for Star, a girl with whom Lia has fallen in love. Meanwhile, in Appleby, a town near Lia's farmhouse, Matt spends a blissful few days with Star, and it changes his life forever.

In trying to find Star, Matt and Lia cross paths; both encounter a commune that promotes a way of life that ignores the rule of the corporations. But the corporations eventually want the commune's land.

The Bone House is peopled with memorable characters whose actions, reactions, and emotions are startling and striking. It speaks -- with empathy, knowledge, and vision -- to the anxieties that arise from the current climate of increasing "free" trade that favours corporate profits over any other considerations and from the ongoing damage to the environment caused by humanity.

The book's politics are complex and nuanced, acknowledging the contradictions that lie at the heart of the negotiation between human welfare and the well-being of the planet. But, most of all, The Bone House is an emotionally rich tale of people who cannot settle for preprogrammed lifestyles and ideas.

Originally published, in slightly different form,
in The Montreal Gazette, Saturday, 1 February 2003.

Claude Lalumière's Fantastic Fiction is a series of
capsule reviews first published in the Saturday Books
section of The Montreal Gazette.

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