"The Silence" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Titan Books
Written by TIm Leboon
2015, 362 pages, Fiction
Released on April 4th, 2015
There's an old saying that goes "Silence is golden". As someone who is boisterous by nature – my sister says the room gets louder just by me walking into it – I've never bought into that proverb. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly times when I'm in full support of that proverb, like when I hear babies crying, but on the whole, I never really agreed with the proverb. That is until I read Tim Lebbon's The Silence, where silence is not only golden, it's survival.
When a research team in Moldova goes spelunking in a cave that had been sealed for who knows how long, they inadvertently release a swarm of terrifying monsters into the world whose only purpose is to eat and populate. Soon, these creatures known as vesps start making their way across Europe and the rest of the planet. It isn't long until it's determined that the vesps hunt via sound and the trick is to remain absolutely silent if you don't want to be something's dinner and/or an incubator for its eggs. Yeah, it's like that.
It's been a long time since I was grabbed early and forcefully in a book like I was with The Silence. Within the first three or four pages, I was hooked and rooting for Ally, the deaf fourteen-year-old protagonist of the story. The book is split between her first-person point of view and her father, Huw's, third-person point of view. I'm generally not a fan of this particular style, but here it really works because Lebbon wisely keeps the tension ramped up as he bounces back between these two characters, each telling a similar but different story from how they perceive things.
What really stands out in The Silence isn't the vesps but the characters. Like any good monster movie (or book), you have to have players people are going to care about to make the story more powerful, and Lebbon knocks it out of the park here. As I said, I was pulling for Ally almost immediately of being introduced to her, and as the pages went on, I only cared about her and her family more. And like any good storyteller worth his or her salt, Lebbon does not use kid gloves with his characters. They are put into some perilous situations and don't come out unscathed. The end of part one was a punch to the gut. My breath actually caught.
However, that doesn't mean the vesps aren't terrific in their own right. These little bastards are both chilling in their description and their numbers. They are vicious, focused beasts who are ready to rip apart flesh at the slightest noise. I love Lebbon's simple but genius (and realistic) idea of getting around this otherwise problematic communication by having his main character be deaf, thus the family can talk via sign language. This works for them, naturally, but it also works against them, as you'll see when you read it.
As is expected in novels that deal what can become (or already is) the apocalypse, you see not just the best in people, but also the worst. In the case of The Silence, it's a creepy preacher the family comes in contact with as they are making their way to the quiet country. I don't want to get too much into him because he really is a haunting character, but needless to say, I couldn't help but think of Reverend Henry Kane from Poltergeist II: The Other Side. The Silence is ripe for a movie, and Hollywood should be running to pick the rights up for it yesterday.
I've read a few short stories by Tim Lebbon, but The Silence is my first full-length novel. To say I'm impressed is an understatement. He adeptly delivers a story that has terror, mystery, tension, and even sorrow, and even with all the monsters literally flying all over the place, it all feels very realistic. I can't see this not being one of my favorite books this year.