Sunday, January 6, 2013

Book Review: The Silent Land

At the onset of this haunting tale, Jake and Zoe, a married couple on a skiing vacation in the French Pyrenees, are buried in an avalanche.  Somehow, they both survive, and are able to dig themselves out of the snow. In the aftermath of the avalanche, Jake and Zoe notice that an eerie silence and pervasive sense of loneliness has taken over.  Upon returning to their hotel, they discover that the bustling ski village has been evacuated.

They soon discover that the phone lines are down, and their varied attempts to head further down the mountain to the next town are stymied and bring them back in a circle.  Jake suspects that they have died, but Zoe begins to experience strange, unsettling events that seem to suggest a more complex explanation than death.

The quality that instantly stands out about The Silent Land is how gripping of a novel this is.  From the opening pages, up to the very last words, I was fully taken in by this book.  Not only is it one of those book that is hard to put down, but The Silent Land is a read that is extremely well plotted and paced.  There's absolutely no fluff, or plumping to this novel, instead it is slim, trim and tightly focused.  That tight focus is a big reason behind why this is such a gripping novel, but for my personal tastes, I need a book with some interesting characters to really set a book apart from the crowd.

The strange thing about The Silent Land is that there isn't too much interesting about Jake and Zoe.  They struck me as incredibly regular folks.  However, it is that regularity of the characters that makes this book better.  I found that it was very easy for me to relate to both Jake and Zoe, their life, and their experiences.  This ease of relate-ability not only helped make the events of the book seem more real, but also made it easier for me to get caught up in the supernatural events going on around Jake and Zoe. Their reactions to events, and the ways they dealt with everything made it easy for me to feel like I was in their shoes, and experiencing events alongside them.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed about this book, is that it's a contemplative read.  As easy as it was for me to understand and relate to both Jake and Zoe, I also wondered how I would feel were I to find myself in their predicament.  Would being completely alone with an abundance of everything at your fingertips, yet with no way out feel freeing, or would it feel like a trap?  Despite this being a slim read, this is a book that lends itself to some thought provoking moments.

If I had one complaint about The Silent Land, it would be that I had the end game figured out pretty easily.  I typically prefer an author to play things closer to the chest, but I'm not totally sure Joyce was going for the big reveal here as much as he was going for that slow drawn out yanking of the heartstrings.  Either way, it didn't take too much away from the overall experience, as I still greatly enjoyed this book.

Though categorically a fantasy, The Silent Land is definitely a book that can be read by both genre and non-genre fans alike.  I think every reader will find something to enjoy in this book and maybe find a piece of themselves in these characters too.  No matter what, any reader who turns the pages of this book will find some food for thought, and an incredibly engrossing read.  The Silent Land is a very well done book and one that I'll be recommending to a number of the readers in my life.

Grade: B+

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