"The Silent End" Book Review
Written by Gabino Iglesias
Published by Ragnarok Publications
Written by Samuel Sattin
2015, 524 pages, Fiction
Released on August 1st, 2015
Once or twice a year I’ll start reading a book expecting it to be good and it'll turn out to be superb. In the case of Samuel Sattin’s The Silent End, that rare occurrence was made even stranger by the fact that the novel mashes together an incredible array of genres and walks a bizarre line between a YA novel, a creepy and very atmospheric mystery, and hardcore horror. With enough monsters, bullies, gore, and action to satisfy any fiction lover, The Silent End is the kind of adventure narrative full of relatable characters that gets young readers hooked on books and satisfies adult readers who enjoy weird, eerie tales, and pulling off both things is remarkable. That being said, perhaps more impressive is the fact that the author manages to keep readers engaged for 524 pages.
Eberstark is a chubby, nerdy kid whose mother disappeared almost a year ago and whose father, a business owner who was never in the running for any parenting awards, seems to have gone insane since they lost her. Eberstark and his father live in the little town of Mossglow, where one goes to school and tries to survive and the other spends his nights running around town performing strange experiments in the company of a strange man with a hat and glasses he refers to only as The Hat. Eberstark has a hard time digesting his father’s constant crazy talk about monsters, but then, on Halloween night, he and his friends Lexi and Gus discover a dying monster in the woods that makes the old man’s insane words suddenly seem plausible. The young friends hide the wounded creature in a cave while they try to figure out what to do, but their act puts them on a path full of danger, conspiracies, and a wide variety of fiends. Women have been disappearing for years in Mossglow, and things are going to get much uglier very quickly now that the youngsters start poking around. What follows is a fast-paced, eerie adventure full of emotional grit and supernatural dangers that put the kids, and the entire town, at the door of something worse than death.
The Silent End is a thick book, so I was a bit worried when I started reading because I’m not a huge fan of YA and this possesses all the elements of one. However, the more I read, the more I liked the characters and the more I realized that this is a very nuanced narrative that contains enough elements to keep me engaged. Then the dark stuff came, and I was hooked. Sattin has a knack for going from the everyday woes of a young adult to the kind of tense, scary situations that horror fans crave. In this narrative, danger is always in the air and awful things pop out of dark corners, hide in mirrors, and run around under the city. Once Eberstark and company get their first taste of that evil presence, it permeates the entire narrative and affects everything. The result is a book that manages to be suspenseful for more than 500 pages while also dealing with abuse, bullying, Otherness, the nature of friendship, and grief.
While the characters in this book carry the story forward, the monsters and then the city itself also become crucial elements of the story. Without much fanfare, Sattin uses this small town to explore some of what’s wrong with this country, but does so without ever loosing sight of the fact that a novel, especially one this long, needs to be consistently entertaining. This last part is accomplished through a healthy dose of humor and pure writing chops that make the author’s description, and the way he constantly keeps the big picture in mind, a pleasure to read:
“My battery died shortly after 3:30 a.m., when, after getting reception for less than ten seconds, I received a text message. The screen went black as I tried to open it. After that, I plodded forward for what could have been hours. At one point, I beat my hands against the rock. I wondered if anyone could hear me. I wondered if I’d succeeded in becoming one of Mossglow’s disappeared. It would certainly show that not only women were being plucked from the population. That boys could be lost too. Mossglow, for all its quaintness, all its allure as an ocean side city with supposedly scenic views, was a poisoned place. People vanished into nothing here.”
I know that YA is a changing genre and this book definitely falls into it, but much like the work of authors like Joe Lansdale, this novel pushes the boundaries of the genre. Sattin tackles some big issues, drops a few F-bombs, and delivers shots of familial distress, insanity, danger, and gore as if he was writing for an adult readership. Take this passage, which deals with some of what the main character has to endure at the hands of school bullies that may or may not be what they seem:
“In the locker was a stick man made of rotting pork, Skewers had been used for the arms and legs. And on each were bunched together chunks of stringy, pink flesh that had probably been festering over the weekend. The head was a round chop with two nails to represent the eyes and a hole for the mouth. And in that hole, a red sausage had been stuck. Juice from the meat had leaked all over my books and papers. Notebooks were stained with melted, rotten fat.”
As often happens with long books, there’s too much in The Silent End to successfully cram into a readable review. What should be said is that Sattin is a talented author who brings a particular blend of sci-fi/adventure/horror to the table that deserves to be read. Get a copy and get ready to disappear into a land of monsters, a young girl who puts Fury Road’s Furiosa to shame, a sentient car, toys coming to life, severed corpses, and underground/underwater adventures. You won’t want to return.