Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Silent Voices

by Gary McMahon


Silent Voices is the sequel to The Concrete Grove, although I read this out of order and didn't feel lost, so it stands on its own quite well. It's a gritty northern horror that centres on three men who are linked by their childhood experiences.

Simon is a wealthy man who lives in London, but has trouble forming attachments with women. He feels guilty because he escaped the Grove and lost touch with his former friends, but now he's returning in order to face down the horrors that have blighted his life. He also wants to understand what went on, because some of his memories are fuzzy.

Marty is a hard man involved in dodgy illegal fights, and he too has trouble connecting with women. Meanwhile Brendan is happily married with kids, and working as a security guard. Brendan is the weak one, and he's plagued by an extensive rash on his back and feelings of inadequacy. All three of them have missing memories of what happened when they were ten, and they all come from uncaring families. This mixture of damaged childhoods and shaky memories hints at a metaphor for abuse, but the story doesn't go where that set-up led me to expect. The supernatural elements emerge fairly slowly, at first through nightmares and small signs. Grubby, haunting descriptions build up a creepy atmosphere, but it takes a long time to work up to some proper weirdness.

Of the main characters, Brendan was the most easily identifiable, whilst Simon was also quite likeable. But Marty was too cold and distant from other people, and even though we're given a reason for this he isn't the most engaging character.

My main problem with Silent Voices is its slow pace. The book spends a long time introducing the characters and explaining their lives, leaving only a small part at the end for showdowns and revelations. So I spent most of the book with no clue what Simon, Brendan, and Marty were facing, and why. However, the novel is engaging throughout due to the down-to-earth characters, and I found the authentic northern setting credible. The ending surprised me. It's a bleak book, but that's tempered by the hope of redemption and interesting characters who I could often sympathise with.

20th November 2013

Book Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Books

  Male Protagonist  

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