Kevin Barry

A Review of Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane

Written by A.W. Marshall

Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane imagines the future in a mythically colorful way that dares his readers to catch up. From page one he bolts forward in a unique dialect, introducing mean-eyed hooligans and lovely whores while the plot chases Logan Harnett, the mafia don of this exotic array of lively and vivid characters, into the foggy underworld of Bohane. Through the unfamiliar colloquial language, many intricacies of place, and the generally chaotic world, the reader is left happily confused. Though it can be annoying and preoccupying to have to go back or look up a word to stay present in a story, this immediate indoctrination is part of the wonder of City of Bohane.

City of Bohane is closer to a graphic novel than a hyper-focused view of how-shitty-things-could-become, like most futuristic settings where humans are on the cusp of nearly all-dead (or undead) due to the ruinous overindulgence of humans. However, Bohane is, thankfully, nothing like that. Its many neighborhoods within—from the Back Trace to Smoketown to the Pikey Dunes to Big Nothin’—are wonderfully brooding and pulsating locales somewhere between Tom Waits’ “Singapore” and Sondheim’s Sweeny Todd, between Jamaica’s Trenchtown and the Marvel’s fictional outlaw town, Madripoor, again in Singapore. However, Barry’s fictional setting lies in Ireland fifty years in the future, and the city of Bohane is fought over by various gangs who want to control the interests, enact revenge, and grab their piece of the future of the town they all seem to adore, lament, and love.