A selection of my post-apocalyptic book club.
The Silent History was apparently initially published as an online, ‘interactive’ serial. Perhaps the transition to novel format did not serve it well; but I had a few issues with the book.
The idea itself is interesting: children start being born who, while not mentally deficient in other respects, lack the capacity for language. The storytelling device is borrowed from World War Z: a documentarian is supposedly interviewing a number of different characters about this social crisis. However, WWZ did it much more smoothly – there are a number of segments here where the ‘interview’ format stretches credibility.
The ‘interviews with different characters’ device is one that can serve a work with multiple authors well, but the flow of the book still managed to feel uneven – I felt like at least one of the authors was on a completely different page about what the tone of the piece should be. Someone wanted to write a serious, socially-conscious allegory about people who are ‘different,’ whether they be autistic, deaf, or otherwise non-typical. Someone else wanted to write an absurd farce involving filthy new-agers and companion kangaroos. Yet, at the same time, a number of the characters have extremely similar ‘voices’ – they some of them blend together far more than they ought to. There are also far more chapters/interviews than necessary to tell the story – it could’ve been tightened up quite a bit. I also said, in my book club, that I think the authors could’ve benefited greatly from input from subject matter experts in linguistics and neurology, as well as computer-human interfaces – there were a lot of opportunities for in-depth exploration of issues that were missed.
The denouement depends on a conflation that is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. (view spoiler).