by Graham Joyce (Gollancz, 2010)
I had originally intended to read The Silent Land over the winter - it being set amidst the snowy peaks of a ski resort and all - but I'm glad I got to it in the end nevertheless! It's hard to explain what this book is about. It opens with a young married couple, Zoe and Jake, out skiing in the early morning. They are anticipating enjoying the peace and beautiful scenery before the rest of the resort empties onto the slopes for the day - but instead end up getting swept up in an avalanche...
When she comes to, Zoe manages to fight her way out from under the snow and is reunited with Jake, and the two stumble back down to the village to get help and warn the other skiiers. But when they reach their hotel - the closest to the slopes - there is no one there, and it appears that everyone has left in quite a hurry. Figuring that perhaps the hotel has been evacuated, they walk into town, only to find it likewise deserted. At first the couple find this situation quite a romantic novelty, cooking dinner in the hotel kitchen and enjoying the spa and the empty slopes, but then strange things start to happen. Zoe begins to hallucinate, time seems to speed up and slow down at will, and when they try to leave the village, no matter what they do the roads always bring them back to where they started. Has the town really been evacuated? Or has everyone died in the avalanche? Have THEY died in the avalanche? And why does it feel like the village itself is trying to manipulate them in some way?
It's a fascinating novel, which really keeps you puzzling and trying to figure out exactly what is going on. I started to work it all out as the chapters flew by, but even so I wasn't quite sure until all the pieces came together at the end. Occasionally it got a bit TOO puzzling, and I think I missed a step on a couple of occasions, but that might have been me rather than the book. I did find that as the situation got more sinister, things started to get a little bit repetitive and once or twice I found myself getting frustrated as a result. The sex scenes were horrendously clinical, I have to say, and I found some of the coarser moments of dialogue between the couple very jarring, and completely at odds with the thoughtful, almost poetic nature of the themes and setting. But when push came to shove, it WAS an interesting premise, with some beautifully surreal moments, some genuinely frightening scenes, and a moving message about the nature of life and the power of love which had me tearing up nicely. Cautiously recommended.
- "But it's like life, isn't it? We know death is coming. And yet we always see our loved ones as taken away from us, instead of given to us for whatever time we have."
- "Two people in love don't make a hive mind. Neither should they want to be a hive mind, to think the same, to know the same. It's about being separate and still loving each other, being distinct from each other. One is the violin string, one is the bow.
Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.