Thursday, October 20, 2016

Book Review: Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Paperback, 272 pages

Published February 2015 by Solaris

Locus Award Nominee for Best First Novel (2016)

Sunburst Award Nominee for Novel (2016)

British Fantasy Award Nominee for Novel (2016)

Prix Aurora Award Nominee for Novel (2016)

It can seem like a waste of time for authors to sit on convention panels. Four or five writers talking about a subject often and they are not normally given enough time and poor moderating doesn’t help either. That being said there have been a few times when thought to myself, that is a author I never heard of and I want to read their work. Silvia Moreno Garcia is one of those cases.

A few years back at the Lovecraft film fest in Portland I saw her on a panel and made a note to read her work. OK, OK it took me a little while or two years to get there but I finally read Signal to Noise. While it is not Lovecraftian or even really horror, the novel is dark fantasy and a terrific read.

I mean this in the best possible way, but I can’t think of anything directly I would compare it to. Here is the bottom line it is a good novel with elements of urban fantasy, teen angst and magic realism. It is a wonderful blend of those elements plus a very personal feeling snap shot of being a teen in Mexico City in the 80’s.

This novel is about the magic and power of music, and the author being the child of two radio DJ’s certainly knows and infuses the novel with music. Told in an effective structure of story present (2009) and story past (1989/90) the story has a song like rhythm where there two timelines make perfect harmony. The tacks build off each other and perform a perfect dance of set up and pay off.

The main character Meche is not exactly the most likable teenager and we get a strong sense that the adult returning to her home town of Mexico City doesn’t mind being home as much as she doesn’t want to confront the person she had been. How many of us would like the younger versions of ourselves?

Meche had two best friends Sebastian and Daniela they were not the cool kids but they found that together they could make magic. Their talisman for magic rituals were records, special records individual copies of certain records alone carried the magic they needed. Ineed certain recording and copies of songs become a quest to them, and they end up fighting over the records. You see when they made a circle they could create love, popularity but not without consequences.

While the music involved doesn’t really hit my personal taste I think SMG did a great job with the music getting the feeling and the vibe of the magic. Meche is a teenager and despite being our main POV it is hard to see how she treats her friends at times. There are some moments of cringe worthy behavior by her.

Signal to Noise is an excellent novel, it is not a mind bending piece of fiction that will tear down new walls but it is a solid work of talented writer. It seems that the novel is very autobiographical at moments but judging from interviews I have listened to on podcasts that SMG did not copy her life. I am very excited to read her next novel and see her stretch her wings in most weird genre territory – the next novel about drug dealers and Mexico City vampires sounds amazing.

Look it cannot be said enough that the horror lacks diverse voices, it is true we need more women writers and certainly more voices of color no matter the gender. SMG’s voice is very welcome not because she fits the diversity we are looking for but she is welcome because she is one hell of a writer that much is already clear. I hope you will check out Signal to Noise. I think it is with it.

No comments: