The Silence - Tim Lebbon

Genre: Thriller/Horror
Synopsis: In the darkness of a vast cave system, cut off from the world for millennia, blind creatures hunt by sound. Then there is light, there are voices, and they feed... Swarming from their prison, they multiply and thrive. To scream, even to whisper, is to summon death.

Deaf for many years, Ally knows how to live in silence. Now, it is her family's only chance of survival. To leave their home, to shun others, to find a remote haven where they can sit out the plague. But will it ever end? And what kind of world will be left?


Review: This novel takes a few classic horror premises and twists them into something pretty fresh with a solidly original spin - one of the narrators is deaf. This in itself makes for an interesting and unique narrative viewpoint but even more than that - it provides a sensible reason for this family (of all the families in the world) to be picked as the focus of this story. It also means that those who survive for as long as they survive (I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say the odd person dies in this novel!) have good reason to - they have the advantage of communication by sign language over a significant portion of the population, as well as a master of silent existence to guide them. This spin, combined with the creepy credibility of the monsters - they're just animals, among which humans can survive or even live, so long as it's in silence - makes this a pretty distinctive novel.

The pace is steadily calm throughout and the events localized to Ally's family, but by way of contrast, each chapter begins with a social media snippet, relating the state of affairs worldwide, which prevents it from being too insular. I would have liked a little more on the social media side of things, though. Well written, and with largely likeable characters, this is a pretty quick and easy read. I have to admit, one of the characters whom I had not thought much of previously actually made me cry towards the end. In a lot of ways, the characters snuck up on me quietly and it was only towards the end I realised how much I wanted them all to survive.

I am knocking it down to a four, largely because I found the ending dissatisfying. There was also one plot point that only turned up fairly late in the novel and which I found a little hard to believe in the midst of such an otherwise credible novel. But the main kicker was the ending. I get what the author was going for, but the limitation which results in the ending had not been a limitation at any prior point in the novel; most identifiably in that Ally's father also narrated events, to nobody in particular through no particular medium. It would have worked perfectly if the social media guru was the sole narrator, but in the absence of this, the ending ultimately felt like a cop out. Shame, but I would still recommend giving it a read because it's largely very very enjoyable.

Rating: 4/5

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