Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review: The Silence by Tim Lebbon

The Silence

by Tim Lebbon

Paperback, 363 pages

Published April 14th 2015 by Titan Books

Some times the best movies of all time come out in the wrong year. It is hard for me to believe for example that Boyhood didn't win best picture, but none the less Birdman came out the same year. Personally I would have voted Boyhood but you know most critics thought Birdman was the better film. I mean both were great right? Why do I bring this up?

This has been an amazing year for horror. For myself I think of Jeremy Robert Johnson's Skullcrack City, Sarah Pinborough's Murder and Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts all as contenders for horror novel of the year. That said I just closed the final page of a book that simply floored me.

All those novels will come in second at least because they all came out the same year as Tim Lebbon's The Silence. This novel is in the tradition of British dystopias ranging from Day of the Triffids to 28 Days Later. The Silence is a high concept monster novel that creates terror in the reader by milking every drop of the idea. There is a moment 2/3 of the way through the narrative that was the most brutal scene I have experienced since the ending of the Mist. I knew this scene was coming, it was obvious and Lebbon gave the reader plenty of warnings. Despite all the warnings reading it still hit me like a gut punch.

The Silence is classic monster novel, while the world ends with frightening monsters it is the full realized family at the center of the story that makes this novel so great. The story kicks off with a live television broadcast of a caving expedition that unleashes these vicious flying creatures, blind rabid like bats called Vesps. They are deadly reproducing fast and spreading across Europe quickly toward the British home of our main characters. The Vesps are blind, after having been dormant in the earth for millions of years. Unleashed they are hungry and hunt by sound.

The challenge for the survivors living in a quickly disintegrating society is to stay silent. It is a matter of survival, even the sound of a voice can be enough to bring the Vesps upon you. You can't drive, too much sound. You can't scream that will bring them on you. Lebbon uses these rules to build suspense masterfully.

Set in the English countryside the main POV of the story is Ally a disabled Teenager whose spent most of her childhood deaf after a terrible accident. Ally's family do as most families would they run looking for safety and have to go to incredible lengths to survive. Along the way their limits are tested, and through it all they have to contain their urges to scream, cry or panic. Lebbon never misses beat, using the concept to ramp up the horror.

Her Father Huw is often the hero of the story but in tragic and realistic manner which serves to guide the reader through the horrors that will have anyone with a heart cringing and considering putting the book down. I am sure many will not make it past page 207.

Lebbon balances the personal with the global using the internet and Ally's Ipad as a story telling tool, I am sure this is the first time I have seen the internet effectively weaved into a end of the world narrative. The internet is used here much like newspaper clippings in King's Carrie. This is effective in many ways, Lebbon manages to dump information without hurting the narrative, and uses the tool to unfold the story right up to the very last page.

The Silence is a must read for fans of end of the world novels, monster novels or family horror. I can't recommend this enough. Absolute horror masterpiece.

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