A Song for a New Day


  • Media: #Books #Books 2020
    • Author: Sarah Pinsker
    • Status: read
    • Date: 2020-09-01
    • Tags: #prescient #dystopia #music #plague #modern #kindleunlimited
    • Rating: ★★★☆☆
    • Idea richness: ★★★☆☆
    • Links: Highlights, Goodreads


A ridiculously naive and cloistered girl (Rosemary) quits her job and ventures off the family farm for the first time to become a recruiter for a hologram music company, bringing virtual live shows to people's homes in the wake of terrorist attacks and a pandemic that left everyone holed up in their own home.

Meanwhile, fellow runaway Luce, one time one-hit-wonder musician from 'the Before' time, continues to tour hidden venues despite the ban on people congregating and make music against the darkness. Paths cross, worlds collide, a battle cry ignites, and apart and together they fight for change in their own way.


If any of that stuff about a pandemic and mass gathering bans sounds weirdly familiar, welcome to 2020! Reading it now, it definitely seems prescient considering the idea of gatherings of above 30 people being banned due to a pandemic and everyone staying at home are no longer straight out of sci-fi. I would love to know what I would have thought if I'd read this book when it first came out. Instead, I read it from my home while recovering from [[!COVID-19]]. National lockdown had technically lifted and people are congregating again but still, definite parallels.

All that said, A Song for a New Day is a tricky one to a review. On the one hand, the worldbuilding felt like a perfect 'near future' (it helps that is basically no longer quite so future). The two parallel but contrasting threads of our main characters Luce (the musician, told in first person, taking place at the end of 'the Before' as things come crashing down and sickness sweeps the country) and Rosemary (naive farm girl, told in third person, with a worldview where crowds are horrors and everything is virtual) is great.

However, things got remarkably less interesting once those two timelines caught up to each other and began to drag even more with each lengthy description of the euphoric feeling of another underground gig. Maybe I just don't get the music buzz in written form, but it didn't feel quite as moving as it should after the fourth or fifth time. The characters themselves ran out of depth along the way and the repeated internal monologues.

I feel like cutting about 75-100 pages out would have made for a much tighter story. Or even a subtly altered version where the two timelines never caught up: Rosemary is chasing rumours of a long-gone Luce's music while we see the end and the new beginning in each timeline.


A Song for a New Day is an interesting near-future/light dystopian wake-up call using music as its vehicle. It explores societal changes through a personal lenses all wrapped up in the music. Maybe a little too wrapped up in the music.


  • "Any choice was a statement, to be judged too upbeat, too downbeat, too heavy, too disrespectful."
  • "Making music in the darkness, then music against the darkness."
  • "“We should be getting back to normal,” one would say. “Before we forget what normal is.” “We have to find a new normal,” said another. I knew all their names by then, but it didn’t really matter who said what. It was the same conversation, over and over. Then somebody would point out some aspect that was improving—schools reopening, say—and we’d all pretend to be cheered."
  • "How many people were going to struggle to pay their bills next month if the clubs stayed closed? Clubs, theaters, cinemas, stadiums, malls. Even a day could be devastating for an hourly worker."
  • "“If this were a war zone, people would go about their business.” My sculptor-roommate was Syrian, and knew war zones. “People here fool themselves into thinking they’re safe, and they can’t take it when that illusion gets shattered.”"
  • "I fought the urge to chuck the phone across the room. What did it do for me anyway? It was a way for people to reach me with bad news at this point, nothing more."
  • "They wanted excitement but not edge or danger or anything offensive."
  • "I miss joy sweeping through a crowd. The good contagion."
  • "‘Safe’ is not a reason to stay home.”
  • “That’s the point! We’re all standing still, and we shouldn’t be.”
  • "...they have a vested interest in keeping you scared."
  • "You don’t have to give up your Hoodie: just open your eyes to the fact that you’re being bought and sold along with whatever you buy when you’re in there."
  • "...the other companies that sold the restriction back to people as convenience."
  • "If the only constant is change, why fight it? Embrace the change, outpace the change, be the change, change the lineup, change the locks, change the key, change everything but the melody and the message."
  • "No jobs for the humans, other than consumption, which was itself a full-time occupation."
  • "Everybody is afraid; it’s what you do when you’re afraid that counts. The world isn’t over yet.”
  • "I had pictured the place frozen in time, perfectly preserved. Stupid. Preservation is an action, not a state."
  • "This was the problem with trying to re-create a memory: the overwrite took the memory down with it."
  • "I’d made and discarded “Fuck StageHolo,” “Burn yr Hoodie,” “Ask me about my corporate overlords,” and “You are a wholly owned subsidiary” before deciding they might blur those out."
  • "We were part of a fiction he was creating, which didn’t have any room in it for the reality of the situation."
  • "It’s okay to be afraid, but we don’t have to let it rule us. We’re all afraid; it’s what we do when we’re afraid that matters. People are a risk worth taking. Let’s create something new together.”
  • “Manifest Independence.”

Scrapbook Concepts

  • “My name is Jeannie. I’ll be your mama duck, and y’all will be my ducklings. Follow, ducklings.” #Characters
  • the singer with the playable tattoo #Characters
  • The Lost Ocean #Locations