In the darkness of a underground cave, blind creatures hunt by sound. Then there is light, voices, and they feed… Swarming from their prison, the creatures thrive; to whisper is to summon death. As the hordes lay waste to Europe, a girl watches to see if they will cross the sea. Deaf for years, she knows how to live in silence; now, it is her family’s only chance of survival. To leave their home, to shun others. But what kind of world will be left?
The Silence popped up on my Amazon recommendations following my reviewing of Josh Malerman’s Bird Box (the review for which you can read here). Obviously, upon its arrival in the mail, I did the obligatory bookstagram shot and received a whole host of comments, bar one, telling me what a great book it was. As a result, it went straight to the top of my Halloween TBR pile (which I’m still getting through, but hey, Halloween is everyday for us horror-loving folk).
I enjoyed Bird Box to the extent where I gave it a four star rating and one of the many reasons I enjoyed it was because there was this underlying theory that the events of the book were a result of mass hysteria. The theory went something along the lines of ‘People believed they should be driven mad at the sight of any one of these creatures and drove themselves mad as a result’. However, I feel that The Silence takes this one step further. Following news reports of blind, cat-sized, razor-teethed creatures with leathery wings sweeping across the globe, mass hysteria ensues. People pick up their weapons and begin looting the shops and stealing getaway cars. Said getaway cars are driven by drivers gripped by panic, drivers who believe that their need to reach someplace – any place – quiet far outweighs anybody else’s need. Pushing the pedal to the metal coupled with checking smartphones for updates on the creatures’ whereabouts results in catastrophic car accidents which then results in complete and utter gridlock across the country. This results in people off-roading which, ultimately, results in people getting their cars stuck in wet, muddy fields making their stranded, screaming, flailing forms the perfect target for the inbound vesps…and this is all before they make landfall. When they do actually reach the UK – where the book is set – the country is already in ruin. If people had remained somewhat calm and rational and paid heed to the initial reports that the creatures homed in on sound, would things have been different?
Ally – the book’s primary narrator – finds herself and her family struck by catastrophe hours before the vesps arrive and all of this is a direct result of actions undertaken by humans. Even when the vesps do arrive, their main confrontation with them is a direct result of, again, humans. The Hushed, a group of desperate, tongueless sheep following their equally tongueless shepherd, the creepy Reverend, retaliate after Ally and her father refuse to join their flock. This retaliation comes in the form of the Hushed throwing hundreds of ringing mobile phones through the windows of the house that the family are seeking refuge in. Naturally, the vesps act on instinct and attack, but who’s the real enemy here? The vesps, just animals acting on instinct, or the humans who purposefully and consciously seek to use the vesps as a weapon for their own agenda? It’s a no-brainer. Ultimately, The Silence presents an uncomfortable question to its readers: to what extremes would we go for our own survival?
I also liked the fact that the story is partly narrated from the perspective of someone who is completely deaf and is accustomed to existing in a world of silence. It’s arguably ironic that a fourteen year old girl can learn to live with silence and yet millions of other people fail at it within hours of the vesps’ arrival. In a world in which noise is everywhere, people simply cannot comprehend silence even when their life depends on it. Ally is forced to live with silence and yet other people can’t even choose it for their own survival.
I know the lyrics don’t necessarily go but this song has been in my head for two days since deciding I’d review this book…No Doubt’s Don’t Speak.
Buy your copy on Amazon or at your local bookstore.