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The Silent History

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from The Silent History website: The Silent History is a novel, written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children. The story is presented in two forms: Testimonials and Field Reports. Testimonials are presented in the form of oral histories told by characters dire from The Silent History website: The Silent History is a novel, written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children. The story is presented in two forms: Testimonials and Field Reports. Testimonials are presented in the form of oral histories told by characters directly affected by the condition — parents, teachers, doctors, cult leaders, faith healers, and government officials, with unexpected intersections and unifying narratives. A new Testimonial will be revealed to subscribers daily. The Field Reports are short, site-specific accounts that deepen and expand the central narrative, written and edited in collaboration with the readers of the Testimonials. To access and comprehend a Field Report, the reader must be physically present in the location where the Report is set. Reports are deeply entwined with the particularities of their specific physical environments — the stains on the sidewalk, the view between the branches, a strangely ornate bannister, etc — so that the text and the actual setting support and enhance each other. Each of these reports can be read on its own, but they all interrelate and cohere within the larger narrative.


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from The Silent History website: The Silent History is a novel, written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children. The story is presented in two forms: Testimonials and Field Reports. Testimonials are presented in the form of oral histories told by characters dire from The Silent History website: The Silent History is a novel, written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children. The story is presented in two forms: Testimonials and Field Reports. Testimonials are presented in the form of oral histories told by characters directly affected by the condition — parents, teachers, doctors, cult leaders, faith healers, and government officials, with unexpected intersections and unifying narratives. A new Testimonial will be revealed to subscribers daily. The Field Reports are short, site-specific accounts that deepen and expand the central narrative, written and edited in collaboration with the readers of the Testimonials. To access and comprehend a Field Report, the reader must be physically present in the location where the Report is set. Reports are deeply entwined with the particularities of their specific physical environments — the stains on the sidewalk, the view between the branches, a strangely ornate bannister, etc — so that the text and the actual setting support and enhance each other. Each of these reports can be read on its own, but they all interrelate and cohere within the larger narrative.

30 review for The Silent History

  1. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    The Silent History is by one of the former heads of McSweeney's, co-written with some other brilliant folks, and when I heard about it back in 2012 it was a novel-by-way-of-app, or a traveling interactive book-experience, or some kind of very ambitious techy hybrid storyform that I only vaguely understood and did not have the device-proficiency to access. (Although, being a person who knows people, I did get to read a few-page advance teaser, which made me nearly weep because I knew I would neve The Silent History is by one of the former heads of McSweeney's, co-written with some other brilliant folks, and when I heard about it back in 2012 it was a novel-by-way-of-app, or a traveling interactive book-experience, or some kind of very ambitious techy hybrid storyform that I only vaguely understood and did not have the device-proficiency to access. (Although, being a person who knows people, I did get to read a few-page advance teaser, which made me nearly weep because I knew I would never get to see any more of it than that.) But. But! Now this crazy project has been produced or reproduced or somehow modified into a form I actually understand and was able to get my grubby little paws on, oh my goodness gracious. And what a crazy thrilling journey it is! Everyone is going to compare this book to World War Z, so let's just get that out of the way now. The similarities are certainly there: it's the story of an epidemic, told as an oral history through many many voices. But while WWZ's epidemic was, you know, the sudden onslaught of brainless killing machines, TSH's is nowhere near so easy to characterize. The book isn't quite out yet so I don't want to be too spoilery, but let's say that the epidemic here is one that affects children, turning them not into deadly zombies but into something still very Other. It has to do with their ability to process language (okay, their lack thereof), and quickly and imaginatively opens up a whole slew of issues and questions about how we as a society deal with social stigmas and those we consider to be mentally deficient. The reactions to the silent children run the gamut, of course, from shunning fear to creepy deification. And the scope of the story covers decades, unspooling as we watch the epidemic go from isolated incidents to a normalized percentage of the population, as the silent children grow to silent toddlers and then silent young adults, causing entire cottage industries and innovative learning theories and debilitating societal programs to arise and fall around them. Due to the book's structure, we hear from some characters only once before they are dismissed forever, while others recur and recur, becoming familiar touchstones, forming the backbone of this very vast story. Those who are given time to develop are shown to be multifaceted, with discernable and relatable justifications for their actions. And we hear from so, so many different types of folks: reporters covering the story, scientists studying the condition, teachers learning to contend with a totally new type of student, "normal" children trying to relate to their neighbors, shopkeepers attempting to conduct commerce without language, parents of a zillion different stripes who all have to find a way to deal with the fact that their children are different in such a fundamental way that they might never be able to find any common ground at all. There are beachfront squats, a bee-sting disaster, teen gangs, hunger strikes, a nails-tough wallaby, road trips that cross and recross, legions of people desperate for connection. It makes you think so hard about how you would handle yourself on any part of a social continuum if you were confronted with a new kind of reality like this. I'm so excited to see how this book does, and I think it will be really well—it's got a great pedigree, fascinating subject matter, innovative storytelling techniques, a vaguely futuristic sensibility. And I'm sure in the right hands it would make a terrific movie.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Althea Ann

    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 ch 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' - 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)[ A computer virus is not a biological virus, even if we call them the same thing. They don't work the same way, and the whole computer-virus-crossing-over-into-people is just not my favorite plot device. (hide spoiler)] .

  3. 5 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    I really should stop reading books that have anything to do with Linguistics. Or disability. Or, God help me, both. Really. This book had entertaining parts. It was written fairly well, and I read through it quickly, but it had some cardinal, essential problems inherent in its premise both philosophically and structurally that I had a lot of trouble dealing with. For one, speaking as a Linguist, while the idea of children born without the ability to comprehend or produce language is actually really I really should stop reading books that have anything to do with Linguistics. Or disability. Or, God help me, both. Really. This book had entertaining parts. It was written fairly well, and I read through it quickly, but it had some cardinal, essential problems inherent in its premise both philosophically and structurally that I had a lot of trouble dealing with. For one, speaking as a Linguist, while the idea of children born without the ability to comprehend or produce language is actually really entertaining to me, that's not how language works. more importantly, that's not how the communication method they settled on in the end work. And it's not how the human mind works, either. There is this bizarre idea that non-linguistic communication is more sincere, that our language (our languages, I should say; all of them) leads to some kind of disconnect, to potential dishonesty, to incomprehension, to shallowness, to wars, to whatever-will-you... And people've been trying to fix this apparentl lack, basically for the entire duration of human history. They've been trying to create philosophical languages, universal languages, natural languages, languages-without-language... Again, without count, really. Everybody had this notion that language should be improved in order to facilitate all these things the authors hammered on; happiness, peace, direct rapport. None of it worked. None of it ever worked. There is an actual reason for that. The reason is that linguistic ambiguity isn't a bug, it's a feature. it doesn't hide our true selves from us, more likely it actually facilitates our ability to communicate those true selves with a sufficient shorthand notation that we can actually do it expediently. It allows us to process abstract ideas through metaphor that we could not otherwise grasp, and to classify things. Basically, the notion that we might be better off, more in tune with ourselves, without language, is romantic drivel. In the same vein, if what the kids were doing was what the authors were actually describing them as doing - aka, exchanging a set of consistent signals about extemporaneous event or non-immediate topics - they were using language, and it really doesn't matter whether they were doing it with their voice, their hands, or their faces. It's the principle that matters. Then there's the disability part. Geez, I dunno. We've bounced through all sorts of weird perceptions of disability, and gone full circle to something. There was a time when people with disability were seen as inherently different on the mental level - worse, or more magical, or a combination of both - and I guess now we've gone right back to that sort of inherent incompatibility assumption. I suppose there's no denying that there is some difference to how people with a disability would see the world, but, at the same time, somehow all these non-verbal people are described as universally happier, better, I can't even begin to catalogue it. This whole culture of disability, almost a kind of odd disability-worship, a bowing to difference for the sake of difference, really drives me nuts. And of course fixing it is evil! Of course the implant is evil! Oh my God how could we write a 'cure' that isn't evil, even if its evilness makes zero sense! I mean, the authors realize, i hope, that you literally couldn't just manipulate someone's language the way the describe right? And naturally there would be no FDA regulations to carefully standardize the implants. I mean, we all know that today's cochlear implants are infinitely content-blockable and you can make your implanted kid never hear a curse word if you so choose, right? Plus, implants change your whole personality, just like you flipped a switch. Makes sense. All the memories and inclinations and things defining who you are which oftentimes have nothing to do with language would suddenly and drastically change, to the extent that you'd become a straight up different person. That always happens with implants, just ask all the people who have artificial teeth. The implants are evil motif is such a horrible turnoff for me, I can't even begin to describe it. If corrective technology is so evil and eliminates whole cultures, I require that all of you people who wear corrective photon modifiers attached to your field of vision, take them off right now, and revel in the difference as you experience the world in an unaltered and unique way. And if you don't think that living without your glasses with distance vision of 20/200 doesn't profoundly affect your experience of reality, boy do I have a newsflash for you. There were also actual, real problems with the book's style and writing. All the characters spoke with the same 'voice' whether they were immigrants from Africa, teachers, or what-have-you. After a while the snippets became rather tedious especially due to a lack of variance. Plus, the gimmick of the book bugged me on a stylistic level, as well. The whole idea that I as the reader have to travel around the world to access the field reports because they 'cannot be understood outside of their natural environment' went contrary to my entire expectation from a book. A book is supposed to send me places by force of word alone, without my needing to go there. I am supposed to be able to travel without traveling, and to understand the sense of place without needing to stand on the spot itself. That is part of what a book is for. I won't tell you not to read this book (or app, or whatever(; it's readable and it's a fun sort of sci-fi story. I suppose, but do try not to take it too seriously.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The Silent History uses technology in an innovative way to enrich the reading experience. It is not the traditional book or Ebook, but an app. After installation, you receive an introductory video and background information on the "project". Then, almost daily, installments arrive which are easily read in 10-15 minutes. While there are times I have wanted to read more and had to wait, it reminds me of the way serial literature came out in the 17th Century when it was too expensive to print an ent The Silent History uses technology in an innovative way to enrich the reading experience. It is not the traditional book or Ebook, but an app. After installation, you receive an introductory video and background information on the "project". Then, almost daily, installments arrive which are easily read in 10-15 minutes. While there are times I have wanted to read more and had to wait, it reminds me of the way serial literature came out in the 17th Century when it was too expensive to print an entire book and then again in the 19th Century with the popularity of novels like Dickens' Pickwick Papers. Serial novels created a buzz before the next fascicle was released and readers shared the reading experience collectively. The subject matter of The Silent History is futuristic, documentation of an epidemic in children born without any capacity for language. The installments are "testimonials" from all arenas of the community, parents, physiologists, doctors, teachers, neighbors, etc.. There are additional "field reports" which can be unlocked if your device GPS reads that you are close to a certain location. While not pivotal to the understanding of the whole of the work, they are extras that are site specific. Most of those are, no surprise, out in CA, but a few are in NYC, and a couple I will have to unlock down in the Lehigh Valley and Philly areas. Readers have the opportunity to create their own field reports, which, if accepted, will be added to the app and new ones keep popping up everyday. It would be a great writing assignment for HS students (if they all had smart phones). It is fun to see how these collaborating authors are using technology to create a different kind of reading experience. As a "retired" Eng teacher, I would have been VERY excited to share this with my students, as I think it is an interesting innovation in literature and has the potential to hook reluctant readers. The writing varies greatly from one testimonial to the next, because these are purported first-hand testimonials, and the voices are strong. It will be interesting to see how the plot unfolds, but from the very beginning there are interesting talking points in regards to our educational system and how we work with children who are challenged with learning disabilities. It also reflects the hysteria created when a carcinogen or pharmaceutical side-effect may be the cause of a birth defect. Reminds me of the mercury/vaccine, Autism case."

  5. 4 out of 5

    Steffi ~mereadingbooks~

    Review also available on my blog. I was provided an ARC by the publisher via netgalley.com. It took me three weeks to get through the first half of this book. The story is told in such a slow manner that it hardly could keep my attention. To be fair, the story of the epidemic silence taking over humanity was actually designed for a different medium altogether. It has previously been released as an iPhone app and the "testimonials and field reports" were alternately "given out" over a certain cours Review also available on my blog. I was provided an ARC by the publisher via netgalley.com. It took me three weeks to get through the first half of this book. The story is told in such a slow manner that it hardly could keep my attention. To be fair, the story of the epidemic silence taking over humanity was actually designed for a different medium altogether. It has previously been released as an iPhone app and the "testimonials and field reports" were alternately "given out" over a certain course of time. This is not meant to be read like a book; i.e. in big chunks at a time. You are only supposed to read these reports one or two at a time. Unfortunately that could not be transported into book form. Reading this as you would read a novel makes it very tedious and at times boring. The premis is actually quite interesting. It is a written report of how in the near future there suddenly are some people who cannot interact via language. They are silent (not mute!) and are not capable of understanding language or interpreting it as anything else than sound. The reports and oral testimonials depict the spreading of the "epidemic" and its cultural consequences. The Silent History touches upon a few interesting aspects such as the importance of language and the related question of what makes us human. Plus, it is really well written. It only takes a short amount of time to get invested in the characters and their fate. However, you never know which character is a recurring one and which one will disappear again after one chapter (or testimonial). All characters have distinct voices, so even if you should have forgotten about one over the course of the narration, you will most certainly remember them pretty quickly once they come up again. BUT it simply could not keep my attention. In book form the narration is simply too slow to keep track of and to stay interested. I wish I could have read this in app-form. This is a clear proof that the medium in which a story is told can make all the difference. The medium can and will influence the story! This is by no means a bad story. The narration and the premise are actually great. I just don't think this works as a novel. At least not for me. This is why I can't give a better rating even though I would like to.

  6. 4 out of 5

    April

    A fascinating novel about what happens when a wave of people are born without the capacity for language. Probably a dozen characters take turns narrating; the book was originally an app. The book has a weirdness factor, and a lot of that is in the personalities of several characters. Some characters also seemed to be stereotypes, but they evolved and were still interesting. Neither of those factors regarding several characters was enough to seriously detract from the book. I loved the concept of A fascinating novel about what happens when a wave of people are born without the capacity for language. Probably a dozen characters take turns narrating; the book was originally an app. The book has a weirdness factor, and a lot of that is in the personalities of several characters. Some characters also seemed to be stereotypes, but they evolved and were still interesting. Neither of those factors regarding several characters was enough to seriously detract from the book. I loved the concept of the novel. I also loved that the story easily served as commentary on any number of issues: • our intolerance and fear of people different from us, and our resistance to learning from and appreciating them • our fear of change and our desire to control our circumstances, which keep us from appreciating the here and now • our thinking that we know best, even to the point of dictating other people's lives in the name of helping or protecting them or doing "what's best" for society • the way we interpret situations to our own benefit, not giving others the benefit of the doubt Some cool quotes from the end of the book: • "I'll tell you that we are endowed with many gifts. And often the only thing that makes you do a full inventory is to be robbed of one of them." • "… I will finally know her for the person she is instead of the person I tried to carve her into." • "Let the unknown be unknown. The things we need will reveal themselves in time."

  7. 5 out of 5

    andrew y

    this book is genius. i read it via the app, doled out in loving little portions and making me wait an ungodly amount of time between volumes. it was excruciating and genius and, yes, actually worked. I imagine in a book it works too, but the format I originally read it in is forever linked to this story for me, and I cannot wait for more. read the book - but next time do it the purer way. oh I guess I didn't say anything about the story itself. here: it is exactly what you would expect from its pe this book is genius. i read it via the app, doled out in loving little portions and making me wait an ungodly amount of time between volumes. it was excruciating and genius and, yes, actually worked. I imagine in a book it works too, but the format I originally read it in is forever linked to this story for me, and I cannot wait for more. read the book - but next time do it the purer way. oh I guess I didn't say anything about the story itself. here: it is exactly what you would expect from its pedigree, and then some.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn S.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this one. I read it as a book, not as it was originally published in app form (because screw you if you didn't have an iPhone two years ago), so I'm not sure how that impacts my reading (in long chunks) vs. the intended ten to fifteen minute blocks. There's just a huge variance in tone--there's little background details of advances in culture and society that are extremely well-thought out, nutrients loafs and music services and discounted car rentals for b I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this one. I read it as a book, not as it was originally published in app form (because screw you if you didn't have an iPhone two years ago), so I'm not sure how that impacts my reading (in long chunks) vs. the intended ten to fifteen minute blocks. There's just a huge variance in tone--there's little background details of advances in culture and society that are extremely well-thought out, nutrients loafs and music services and discounted car rentals for being implanted with a chip that makes you incredibly thirsty whenever you see a certain brand of drink. But there's also shitty pseudo-science and a dude who gets into hand-to-hand combat with a hoard of wallabies that he had previously been raising for meat. He is unable to defeat the final wallaby, and so they bond and travel across the country together. And this is a keystone character. If anyone's the protagonist, it's the wallaby guy. But the authors also do fun things with the characters, giving you first-person perspectives from multiple people, often on each other. You listen to one person wax poetic about the nobility of his mission, and then someone else chimes in that he's really in it for the attention. (Though this is somewhat problematic, as there's a theme of secret-shameful-homosexuality involved. But then there's also group orgies.)They explore that it means to be human, what it is to communicate, if it is human to speak or if speech is just an imprecise funnel for concepts and depths of emotion that are eventually stifled, left to wilt, unnamed and unexplored. If the silents are less than human because they cannot speak, or more, because they do not need to. (All while being tragicomically aware of how hippy-dippy that sounds.) Maybe this worked better doled out in pieces, slowly, inviting the reader to savor it. Maybe I would like it more if I re-read it. It just felt very unwieldy, sprouting legs in weird places and shambling around.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I read the book, not the app. What primarily got me interested was the prospect of the silent children. With the prevalence of autism and other developmental disabilities in today's society--and as the father of a child with ASD--I latched on to this compelling story. One of the narrators of the tale does point out quickly that the "epidemic" is not autism, but man, it might well be symbolic as such. You can also see the scenario as a symbol of our next generation who electronically text and ema I read the book, not the app. What primarily got me interested was the prospect of the silent children. With the prevalence of autism and other developmental disabilities in today's society--and as the father of a child with ASD--I latched on to this compelling story. One of the narrators of the tale does point out quickly that the "epidemic" is not autism, but man, it might well be symbolic as such. You can also see the scenario as a symbol of our next generation who electronically text and email and chat before they learn to write ...is this a story of what we are coming to, a world of nonspeech? I didn't see this book as much of a dystopia, sci-fi world as others do. I saw it more of a plea to include our children (regardless of ability) into the world of oral communication before we let technology take over. Towards novel's end, it loses some of that thoughtful drive--the thread about the dude and his wallaby I found kind of ridiculous-- but overall it packed an emotional wallop. If you are personally involved with children that have special needs, this will hit you HARD. If you are looking for a World War Z kind of action thing as had been mentioned elsewhere, you may be in for disappointment.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matt Brehaut

    What happened?? This book started out as genius and then fell on its literary face. The collapse started a little before a kangaroo became a focal character and continued all the way to just before the last 3 pages, which were acceptable, not horrible. I give it three stars with the hope that one day, someone picks up the first third of this book and rewrites it to carry on the genius.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Polly

    The premise seemed really good, I enjoyed about the first 200 pages, and after that I was reading more and more slowly, and finding other things to do instead of reading it, and I realized I no longer cared how it ended, so I didn't finish it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cole

    This book is billed as ‘Children of Men meets World War Z’, but this description (while it hooked me in) doesn’t provide an accurate picture. The Silent History isn’t as violent or austere as that summary would suggest. The action is played out largely on the emotional spectrum, and it does this very well. I loved how so many of the characters had a clear and recognizable voice; some of them were all too real for me (Patti and Prashant in particular), which was both hilarious and uncomfortable. T This book is billed as ‘Children of Men meets World War Z’, but this description (while it hooked me in) doesn’t provide an accurate picture. The Silent History isn’t as violent or austere as that summary would suggest. The action is played out largely on the emotional spectrum, and it does this very well. I loved how so many of the characters had a clear and recognizable voice; some of them were all too real for me (Patti and Prashant in particular), which was both hilarious and uncomfortable. The ‘oral history’ format used makes this all the more effective. I found this to be an intensely human read — so many of our weaknesses, our insecurities, our egos, our misguided good intentions laid bare, but with an undeniable undercurrent of care, of love, of warmth and hope. I finished the book waiting for a flight and had to fight off tears by the end. A wonderful way to close out my 2019 in reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Wow. A mind-blowing, thought provoking and frightening look at our attitudes towards otherness and language. I absolutely loved this book. At over 500 pages this is not a quick read, but it is the kind of book that unfurls and flowers the deeper you go into it. It was a very rewarding read, I really felt I was getting back what I put into it. At times it was incredibly bizarre (Wallaby the Wallaby springs to mind) but mostly it was just beautiful. I was even driven to highlight passages as I went, Wow. A mind-blowing, thought provoking and frightening look at our attitudes towards otherness and language. I absolutely loved this book. At over 500 pages this is not a quick read, but it is the kind of book that unfurls and flowers the deeper you go into it. It was a very rewarding read, I really felt I was getting back what I put into it. At times it was incredibly bizarre (Wallaby the Wallaby springs to mind) but mostly it was just beautiful. I was even driven to highlight passages as I went, something I very rarely do especially when reading on my Kindle. “People talk too much anyway. A life of talking and you say probably three good things.” This book is told through a series of accounts. Gradually links are shown between the characters, locations and events and before you know it you are holding your breath and devouring the pages. The basic premise is that a generation of people are born with no concept of language; they cannot learn it or understand it or use it. That part of their brain is simply dead. At first the accounts are concerned with why this happened. Then the human struggle to exist and overcome shines through. Then other human urges to control and conform take over. As a reader you watch as their society shifts and changes and finally faces its biggest challenge as the minority become the majority, those that were viewed as lesser become the only ones who can cope in the new world. The fractured society and its subtle mentions of hobbies, advertising and the mentalities of small communities are so familiar, and provide a frightening wake up call to a world so concerned with communication that no one ever says anything worth hearing – and the awful thought that no one is listening to you anyway. The diverse characters and their attitudes beautifully show different facets of our society recognisable today and you really find yourself immersed in the struggles of the characters (and how they justify their actions and beliefs). This is the kind of book I will return to in the future, finding something different every time. Imaginary Friends: Francine. The amazing Asian Plumper. I would drink and sing and do online jigsaw puzzles and needlework with this girl. Ever hopeful, ever learning with a huge capacity for love and optimism.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Although this book is about the near future, it really starts right about now. The medical community is beginning to discover a small group of children who lack language skills. Totally. Not only are they unable to talk; they also appear not to be able to understand language at all. Although the rest of their brains appear to function normally, all the language sections are dead zones. They are totally silent. The novel (which originally came out in small bits that readers could access as an app) Although this book is about the near future, it really starts right about now. The medical community is beginning to discover a small group of children who lack language skills. Totally. Not only are they unable to talk; they also appear not to be able to understand language at all. Although the rest of their brains appear to function normally, all the language sections are dead zones. They are totally silent. The novel (which originally came out in small bits that readers could access as an app) is comprised of reports and testimonials from various people, from 2011 to 2044, relating how the “silent” minority impacted on society. The children grow up, become teens and then adults, and as their numbers grow their impact on society grows. To me there seems to be an obvious connection between this novel and the plight of today’s autistic children, but maybe even more so that of the deaf community (many of whom refuse to get cochlear implants for their deaf children because they feel being deaf makes them part of the deaf culture, therefore they don’t need to be “fixed”). The novel really makes one think about how we as a society often fail to accept people who are different, as well as raising questions about the scientific community’s rush to “fix” things without fully understanding the ramifications. There were a few slow sections that made me wonder if I should continue on. However, every time I thought I might stop, it would pick up again. It was a bit disconnected at times because some characters appear only once and never resurface, while others recur many times, and given the format (the characters are giving reports), it occasionally seemed kind of choppy and all over the place. I kept confusing the characters at first, but eventually figured them all out. A couple of the plotlines were too over-the-top for my liking (David and Wallaby the wallaby?!?), but most of the ‘reports’ were interesting and kept the story moving along. Overall, a unique novel that I’m sure worked really well ‘serialized’ as an app. I can see how readers would get sucked into eagerly awaiting each installment.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Constance

    I really enjoyed this. In one way, it reminded me of classic science fiction, the kind that started with a single premise: what if? In this case, what if a section of the population was suddenly born without the capacity to formulate or comprehend language? How would people react? How would we communicate? How would they function in society? Would they be feared? Revered? Marginalized? The answer is yes to all. On other levels, this was a genuinely modern novel, set over a 30-year span from 2011 I really enjoyed this. In one way, it reminded me of classic science fiction, the kind that started with a single premise: what if? In this case, what if a section of the population was suddenly born without the capacity to formulate or comprehend language? How would people react? How would we communicate? How would they function in society? Would they be feared? Revered? Marginalized? The answer is yes to all. On other levels, this was a genuinely modern novel, set over a 30-year span from 2011 to 2041, and dealing with the way the world transitions around and either marginalizes or forces integration of the first generation of "Silents." The novel was first developed and published as an award-winning iPhone app. The style is many short chapters in the form of testimonials, which give it an even more contemporary feel. Some characters have many entries, some only a few, and through both we follow a story arc of how the new Silent segment of society is treated as handicapped, marginalized or forced into dubious cures, the ramifications and outcomes of these "cures," and the impact on society of a growing Silent population. Not all of the narrators are sympathetic, and all are enmeshed in their own shortcomings, mostly language-based - either trapped in self-doubt or well-spoken bullies. With one exception, we only know the Silents through those they interact with, since the Silents have no language as we know it, but the glimpse we have is of a rich, unimaginable, potentially beautiful inner life with a great capacity for empathy and understanding. Some readers have felt there were parts that strained credibility, but I kind of appreciated that - and you know, in the end, "there are more things in heaven and earth," and I found I could stretch my imagination around all of this imaginative and unusual novel that asks the reader to rethink how we think about silence.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I started out enjoying this book more than I did so at the end. A virus sweeps the human population and robs them of the concept of speech--they can no longer understand words spoken to them (or read) nor produce speech, nor have thoughts based in language. A generation or two of children who are born with the virus never have the ability to acquire any form of language concepts. So the idea is interesting. However, I found that the super-short chapters from multiple narrators difficult to keep I started out enjoying this book more than I did so at the end. A virus sweeps the human population and robs them of the concept of speech--they can no longer understand words spoken to them (or read) nor produce speech, nor have thoughts based in language. A generation or two of children who are born with the virus never have the ability to acquire any form of language concepts. So the idea is interesting. However, I found that the super-short chapters from multiple narrators difficult to keep straight, b/c there were so many. I felt that I never got to really connect with, or understand, any of the characters, and this really took away from my interest in the story; it was too choppy. Good idea, but not executed in a fashion that I cared for.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julian Douglass

    Working with children who have special needs makes me really connect with this book. This shows a diverse cast of characters who try to make the best out of the situation that they are presented with, and tries to find harmony that can solve every problem. But, what is good for one person is not good for another. The story line shows this and the true emotions that parents, public officials, and others face with dealing with kids with a range of disabilities. I like the POV approach that this no Working with children who have special needs makes me really connect with this book. This shows a diverse cast of characters who try to make the best out of the situation that they are presented with, and tries to find harmony that can solve every problem. But, what is good for one person is not good for another. The story line shows this and the true emotions that parents, public officials, and others face with dealing with kids with a range of disabilities. I like the POV approach that this novel takes, as it does a better job to show the true feelings than a third person approach that other novels do. An easy read and a pretty good ending. The three authors have clearly done their research and put together a good novel.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sansku

    The idea of this book was intriguing - people born without any ability to communicate whatsoever. I thought it would make a really interesting read. Not so. I was so disappointed in this book. All throughout, I kept waiting for something good to start happening. Some chapters had lots of bad swearing. I basically just found the book boring and kind of depressing. I kept hoping it would end once I realized that I wasn't going to find the interesting story I was looking for. I try to finish the bo The idea of this book was intriguing - people born without any ability to communicate whatsoever. I thought it would make a really interesting read. Not so. I was so disappointed in this book. All throughout, I kept waiting for something good to start happening. Some chapters had lots of bad swearing. I basically just found the book boring and kind of depressing. I kept hoping it would end once I realized that I wasn't going to find the interesting story I was looking for. I try to finish the books I start but eventually I just gave up on this one and stopped reading it (towards the end, so I didn't want to even finish reading it to see if the ending at least was worth my time).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This book has much to say about language, consciousness, disability, neurodiversity, and mass hysteria, but it is also a page-turner that kept shifting in unexpected directions until the last pages. One of the authors, Matthew Derby, came to present our literary organization in Nanuet, NY, and spoke movingly about his sister Margaret, a multiply-disabled child who could not speak and who died in early adulthood. He also talked about the development of The Silent History as an iPhone app before it This book has much to say about language, consciousness, disability, neurodiversity, and mass hysteria, but it is also a page-turner that kept shifting in unexpected directions until the last pages. One of the authors, Matthew Derby, came to present our literary organization in Nanuet, NY, and spoke movingly about his sister Margaret, a multiply-disabled child who could not speak and who died in early adulthood. He also talked about the development of The Silent History as an iPhone app before it was a book. If they ever make it for Android, I'll be eager to explore the world of the book there, as well.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Erik Nelson

    (DISCLOSURE: I was an advance contributor to this project, and I just *love* it.) Runs along the same lines, both in structure and tone, as Brooks's WORLD WAR Z. I got to see drafts of the first decade when I was working in my contribution, but reading them again via the app is an even better experience. Gives me hope for where digital books are going. Really looking forward to second decade (which starts publishing Monday).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Manjula

    I've stopped reading installments; the structure is interesting but the narrative & characters just aren't engaging enough, and the premise/s feel cliched/poorly thought out. I've stopped reading installments; the structure is interesting but the narrative & characters just aren't engaging enough, and the premise/s feel cliched/poorly thought out.

  22. 4 out of 5

    John Bene

    I tried a bit, visited a few local input locations but it all felt too gimmicky to me. The story felt contrived and the pieces were too small, the pace too slow. Like the idea, not the execution.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Micaela

    NOTE: I read this as the paperback book, not as an app, which probably affected the experience. Reviewing this book is going to be quite a task. There was some that was good here, a lot that was bad or uncomfortable, and a ton that was neutral. Let me start by caveating that I know this book started as an app, so I understand there might be some nuance and experience lost in translation, which might contribute some to my issues. I'll start with some negatives. The first problem is that while the NOTE: I read this as the paperback book, not as an app, which probably affected the experience. Reviewing this book is going to be quite a task. There was some that was good here, a lot that was bad or uncomfortable, and a ton that was neutral. Let me start by caveating that I know this book started as an app, so I understand there might be some nuance and experience lost in translation, which might contribute some to my issues. I'll start with some negatives. The first problem is that while the concept had a lot of potential, there was a lot about the execution that I just didn't buy, most especially that communication with the "silents" is impossible. At one point, Flora communicates with images, and that seemed like a totally obvious solution from the get go. The implication that they don't "think" either is just past the realm of convincing (and for reasons I'll go into shortly, is practically offensive); theories have existed for a long time that human thought is not solely linguistic. I am not a neuroscientist but it seems to me the phenomenon of having a word "on the tip of your tongue" - meaning you're conceiving of something specifically and vocabulary fails you - must mean that our thoughts incorporate more than words. So this book really needed to sell me on the silent phenomenon to suspend my disbelief (not a high threshold for me usually), and it didn't quite. And this entire book, save one chapter, took place in America. The one that didn't, near the very end, brought up a point I thought of at around 1/3 of the way into the book, which is that people around the world already speak different languages and have trouble making themselves understood to other people. The reason airline safety brochures have almost zero words in them is because they have to work for a lot of languages without teaching people to speak first. All this to say that the idea that they don't think and that there are zero parents who would think to communicate pictorially is juuuuust unbelievable enough for me that it kept taking me out of the story for the first 2/3 of the book or so. And, nonverbal people like, exist. I'm verbal and not autistic, so I'm not an authority but the metaphor (intentional or not) here is troubling. The silents are constantly objects rather than subjects; they catalyze action and are passive rather than active, or even reactive, for the majority of the book - and even when you think they're finally getting their own say and their own plots, some verbal asshole (I hated David, and couldn't tell if the book wanted me to) destroys the implants. For the silents who wanted the implants, disastrous. And for those who didn't, the fact that it wasn't one of the rebel/holdout silents, who we hear a LOT about but never even really make contact with!, is unjust. Where are the voices, verbal or not, of the silents here? And even if we weren't to hear from them, where is their agency? This gets at a problem that only makes itself more apparent as the book goes on. I was thrilled when Calvin revealed he wasn't as in love with the implant as he said earlier, I was thrilled Persephone was presented with problems and that both of them said that silence was occasionally preferable (both on a narrative level, I felt bad for the characters of course), but the narrative is so positionless that I think I was projecting a lot onto it. My guess is this is because it was designed as an immersive app experience rather than a straight novel, but when you start to compile things into a book with an order and everything, it has different connotations. Even in stories such as this one with no omniscient narrator, the text has a perspective (we'll get to the "compilation" part later). I feel like here the perspective was so dickless, for lack of a better word, that it ended up granting a lot of ground to the characters who I found truly cruel in their self-righteousness. Forced implants? Rounding silents up? Implants that let others control the words the implantees can say?? What the fuck? Look, obviously by the end it was on the side of the silents and those who objected to invasive procedures, etc, but it takes so long to get there. And if the text was essentially pulling us in just to make us realize that we were Wrong All Along, well, it didn't do that well enough at the beginning either. (To be clear I have no problem with the invention of the implant. Medical advances are not inherently bad, OBVIOUSLY, and I use plenty every day. But the way this book subsequently treats it is... well... bad.) (And there's a lot to be discussed when it comes to the just desserts at the end being a loss of language for everyone. It's pretty obviously punishment, but essentially punishing people with this autism metaphor is just as bad as the way the silents were written about earlier. Autism isn't a punishment, and neither is not possessing language. These are real things that are true of real people, and there is no way to consider this book without thinking of those real people.) There is some better stuff here: the genre play is interesting, for example. It starts as a medical mystery, goes into zombie movie territory, ends with almost a supernatural vibe when The Boy essentially heals all the malfunctioning implants. Along the way you have Theodore stuck in his family drama, Persephone in basically a flawed-robot story (though again, the metaphorical implications here that silents aren't human are gross), and so on. That said, who knows what was going on with Patti, my single least favorite character (so insufferable for so long, so for the first looooong chunk of the book, the only voice advocating for the silents is also the most annoying and self-involved! Ugh). There was also some interesting futuristic stuff there, like Nancy and Spencer and their Slush implants, which was a fascinating tidbit. It meted out small doses of the future, which again in an app probably proved very effective since it was more in real time (though obviously still not literally real time), but even in a novel worked well to give it a more solid sense of time. To that end, I wish the book had included a few testimonials from people who had extremely limited contact with the silents - maybe their notes were being collected for a different project - and the silents just kind of showed up in the background. Unless the book was trying to argue that every single child born from 2011 onwards was affected by silence, which I doubt, then there was no way that every single person on earth, or even in the country, would have been affected (obviously not at the very end). That might have given us some perspective and done some of the worldbuilding heavy lifting. This isn't a negative so much as wasted potential for a positive, but I thought the form could have been more complex as well. I kept flipping through the book hoping for a chapter in pictures, for example (done well in the Book Thief, where the words in that section are mostly superfluous if you're just trying to get at emotion), which would have helped a lot giving the silents a voice and therefore a perspective & a stake in their own story. Same with maybe a clipping from an encyclopedia, a news source, photos of the silents' living situations, ANYTHING, even if it was quoted by one of the narrators. I felt very much that if there was a prologue where it was made clear this was a compilation after the fact, there needed to be more, well, compiled. As it stood, this didn't need to be a "compilation" of anything; it could have just been a book with multiple narrators and no prologue. Especially just coming from reading Where'd You Go Bernadette (but probably even if I hadn't) that felt like a disappointment. The characters are also well-drawn, though again since I was projecting my distaste at everyone's treatment of the silents I liked almost none of the speaking ones. But they're all distinct entities, which is tough in a book like this - the varying narrators thing was done exceptionally badly in the Swan Thieves, for example - and I had varying levels of sympathy and dislike for all of them. Part of me feels bad giving this book only two stars. Maybe it's a three-starrer, but there's just a lot weighing it down. It's reminding me a lot of my reaction to the Book of Dave: it was a good book if you just ignored a lot of stuff. This one wasn't as good as the Book of Dave, though, in concept or in execution. It's disappointing because I really really enjoyed the Pickle Index, and I was hoping I'd have the same experience here - maybe not as good as the app would have been but still just a good story and a fun concept. But a book where so much of the story rests on characters with zero agency is bound to be somewhat of a disappointment. And I don't know if the authors intended this to be a metaphor for autism, but that's what they wrote, and they owed that story better than what they gave it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Julie Capell

    Fascinating thought experiment about how language shapes us, how we think, how we relate to one another, how we understand ourselves and our world. As a student of languages, language acquisition and linguistics, the topic alone is enough to give me goosebumps of happiness. The book also has an unusual format, great writing and truly unique characters. Add to that some truly compelling ethical questions and you have a winning combination. Chapters are extremely short, each written from the point Fascinating thought experiment about how language shapes us, how we think, how we relate to one another, how we understand ourselves and our world. As a student of languages, language acquisition and linguistics, the topic alone is enough to give me goosebumps of happiness. The book also has an unusual format, great writing and truly unique characters. Add to that some truly compelling ethical questions and you have a winning combination. Chapters are extremely short, each written from the point of view of a different character. At first, the relationships between the characters are nonexistent. Eventually, the characters recur, telling a little bit more of their own personal story every time they have a chapter. I found myself flipping back and forth between chapters to keep track of what was going on. Far from being annoying, I found this structure fit the story well, made me think (always a good thing) and kept the narrative moving along quickly. [However, I do think this structure might make it more difficult to keep track of things if one were to listen to this as an audio book.] The writing style itself was fantastic. Several passages were so impactful—whether for their beauty or their despair—that I simply had to stop reading and absorb them. This book left images etched so strongly in my mind that I will not forget them any time soon. As for the characters . . . there is a wide cast, befitting a book of this size. Yet the number does not become overwhelming; I felt no need to draw out a map showing how they were connected. They come together in a completely organic and believable way, with each one going through his or her own character arc. And I was amazed at the sheer originality of many of the characters—so unique I couldn’t stop thinking I would love to see this made into a TV show. The ethical questions raised by this novel are thorny and the author manages to show how different people can have different ideas of what is the “right” thing to do. By the end, it is clear where the author stands, but still the book does a good job of making the reader think through all the implications of enforcing “normality” on entire groups of people. Dealing with ethical issues is something I think scifi is incredibly good at, and the Silent History carries it off spectacularly well.

  25. 4 out of 5

    S'hi

    With shades of Orwell and Ray Bradbury, The Silent History captivates from the very beginning with the creation of its own internal world, while establishing the threshold against which every character will eventually somehow pitch themselves. Given a futuristic edge by the dating of reports (rather than chapters) by successive participants, the sense of silence for each of us when we face the unknown dangles enticingly as a fear to be embraced or fled. The choice of characters and their lines of With shades of Orwell and Ray Bradbury, The Silent History captivates from the very beginning with the creation of its own internal world, while establishing the threshold against which every character will eventually somehow pitch themselves. Given a futuristic edge by the dating of reports (rather than chapters) by successive participants, the sense of silence for each of us when we face the unknown dangles enticingly as a fear to be embraced or fled. The choice of characters and their lines of development must have challenged the writers to both reach within and beyond themselves. To find each other to develop their mutual writing abilities may have been chance, but the results are definitely not. This is tight without being restrictive. There is still plenty of room for the imagination of readers, and the disbelief of some portions of characterisation which allow the introduction of uncomfortable ideas and viewpoints. Most disturbing always seems to be what others would impose generally for their own sense of control to hide their own vulnerability and fear. Maybe I need to face that within myself to let go and write something equally imaginative yet possible. This certainly left me more disturbed than anything I have read for a very long time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leslie

    I have to say, from the first chapters on, I really did enjoy this story. I found myself looking forward to picking it back up after I had to put it down. The premise is unique, and although some reviewers commented that the physiological aspects written in this book were not scientifically correct, I tried to focus on the philosophical aspects of what was happening to the characters, and how it would affect our society if it really happened. I also enjoyed how the story was told, like a diary, t I have to say, from the first chapters on, I really did enjoy this story. I found myself looking forward to picking it back up after I had to put it down. The premise is unique, and although some reviewers commented that the physiological aspects written in this book were not scientifically correct, I tried to focus on the philosophical aspects of what was happening to the characters, and how it would affect our society if it really happened. I also enjoyed how the story was told, like a diary, told in many voices.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Craig Dean

    Intriguing but flawed, and ultimately just not that interesting - particularly in the (presumably deliberate) unsatisfying conclusion. The story is well presented and promises more than it delivers; and I felt the nature of the silence lacked self-consistency both in causation and expression. The characters ranged from hyper-real to hyper-surreal, so there are occasional gems in a sea of distraction. I felt the book was analogous to a whistling firework with no bang. Loud, anticipatory and fundam Intriguing but flawed, and ultimately just not that interesting - particularly in the (presumably deliberate) unsatisfying conclusion. The story is well presented and promises more than it delivers; and I felt the nature of the silence lacked self-consistency both in causation and expression. The characters ranged from hyper-real to hyper-surreal, so there are occasional gems in a sea of distraction. I felt the book was analogous to a whistling firework with no bang. Loud, anticipatory and fundamentally disappointing. Despite that it is an impressive and creative achievement.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Karis!!

    To say this book was one of the most original, interesting ideas I've ever come across would do it a disservice. It is one of those stories that will stick with you long after you've finished it, haunting your every thought. I found this book accidentally in a wayward bookstore in Hong Kong, and I'm so glad I didn't leave it behind.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Joy (joyous reads)

    I was under the impression that this book is a horror. But as the chapters flew by, it quickly become clearer that it was more Sci-Fi than anything. I enjoy Sci-Fi/horror anyway, and since I don’t have very many of those, I’m always game to dive in. However, I felt that this book went way too long for my taste and it didn’t have the sustainability to keep a reader like me. In here, we find a generation of children without voice and no means of communication. It was as if they were born without th I was under the impression that this book is a horror. But as the chapters flew by, it quickly become clearer that it was more Sci-Fi than anything. I enjoy Sci-Fi/horror anyway, and since I don’t have very many of those, I’m always game to dive in. However, I felt that this book went way too long for my taste and it didn’t have the sustainability to keep a reader like me. In here, we find a generation of children without voice and no means of communication. It was as if they were born without that part of their brain. Parents, doctors, scientists were confounded. The children can’t speak, and unable to make any sounds at all. They were shunned by other children who can speak, treated as if they were mentally handicapped. But the worst part of all was that they were vulnerable to predators. Case in point, a kid who was abducted while shopping in a mall when he couldn’t scream for help. Told in part as chronicles of testimonials, The Silent History contains a world whose ability to communicate vastly changed. Half of the world spoke in a telepathic manner but was not taught and can’t be learned. Though this book is 500-some odd pages, I found myself racing through 50% of it. It was a fascinating world, one where half the population scrambled to learn about a new kind of language all together. However, it doesn’t take time until I found myself lost — not in the story, but literally lost. The plot quickly becomes convoluted. With the discovery of nanotechnology that enabled the children to speak, the Science of it all complicated what was an otherwise absorbing story. And as the cure was slowly introduced, so were the factions that contributed to the chaos. It was harder to keep track of the number of points of views — and there were many. The cure, while great on the surface, became a bone of contention for some parents and the government. After the kid was saved from the sexual predator that kidnapped him, the government instituted a law that aimed to protect children under the age of 6. They made it a law to have all outfitted with the cure. And while I can understand why the parents would want their kids to have the ability to speak, I also saw why some parents were against it. In essence, the cure would invariably change their children into different people altogether. Some chose to let the children decide for themselves as adults.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Angelique

    This book is full of weird characters and at times they got too weird for me. There’s also a lot of characters and it got hard to remember them all. The concept of the book, that kids are being born silent, is what interested me in this story. The story is told through testimonials which was odd at first but nonetheless ended up telling a story. However, near the end things started to happen that I felt were far fetched for even this sort of dystopian novel. I also felt like the story dragged on This book is full of weird characters and at times they got too weird for me. There’s also a lot of characters and it got hard to remember them all. The concept of the book, that kids are being born silent, is what interested me in this story. The story is told through testimonials which was odd at first but nonetheless ended up telling a story. However, near the end things started to happen that I felt were far fetched for even this sort of dystopian novel. I also felt like the story dragged on for longer than necessary. I ended up going with three stars though rather than two because the characters were well written as was the story line.

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