The Silent Land, by Graham Joyce

>> Thursday, February 02, 2012

TITLE: The Silent Land
AUTHOR: Graham Joyce

COPYRIGHT: 2010
PAGES: 264
PUBLISHER: Gollancz

SETTING: Contemporary France
TYPE: Fiction
SERIES: None

A young couple are caught in an avalanche during a ski-ing holiday in the French Alps. They struggle back to the village and find it deserted. As the days go by they wait for rescue, then try to leave. But each time they find themselves back in the village. And, increasingly, they are plagued by visions and dreams and the realization that perhaps no-one could have survived the avalanche.THE SILENT LAND is a brooding and tender look at love and whether it can survive the greatest challenge we will ever face.
Zoe and Jake are on a skiing holiday and out really early, trying to get on the slopes before other tourists arrive en masse. As they descend, they are caught in a landslide, and only barely survive. When they manage to get back to the village where they're staying, the entire place is empty -clearly evacuated, they reason, due to the risk of more avalanches.

But it's not just that the whole place is empty. They can't seem to get anyone on the phone, can't get any channels on the television and can't connect to the internet. And whenever they try to leave the village, something always stops them, and they end up back where they started...

I was really intrigued by the set-up of this book, and I really liked the way it started. The first half was actually really good. I had some suspicions about what might be going on, but it was still all really chilling and intriguing, and satisfyingly creepy.

I wasn't even fazed by the characters having a massive realisation about one third into the book, which I would have thought would be the big one at the end. That made me even more intrigued to see where Joyce could go from there.

Unfortunately, the answer is: nowhere much. I was completely disappointed by the ending. It's just that it was the obvious one, what I immediately thought would be a reasonable explanation, but kind of mentally rejected because it would be too obvious and boring. I was hoping for something creepy, something that made me do a double take and look back at the book with new eyes (ideally, something as fantastic as the climactic moment of realisation in The Sixth Sense). And after the characters having that flash of insight so early in the book (see previous paragraph), it needed to be great and unexpected.

What I got had a bit of a tinge of the paranormal, but not anything to get excited about. I also hoped for something that would explain all the little arbitrary details and changes in rules that Zoe and Jake had experienced. Some things were explained by the conclusion (e.g. the coffins, the ringing mobiles), but others weren't, really. And I had some objections to how it all hinged on that this love between them was so, so great that all this stuff happened, when Joyce hadn't convinced me at all about that.

I guess I was hoping for "Oh, wow!", and got "Oh, ok".

MY GRADE: A B-.

2 comments:

Susan/DC,  3 February 2012 23:33  

Try Kevin Brockmeier's "A Brief History of the Dead". It's not perfect and somewhat falls apart at the end, but before that it's both understated and poignant.

rosario001,  4 February 2012 08:39  

From Susan/DC (for some reason I can't see it here, but I can on my blogger dashboard!): "Try Kevin Brockmeier's "A Brief History of the Dead". It's not perfect and somewhat falls apart at the end, but before that it's both understated and poignant. "

Thanks, Susan, it does look really good. And my library has it!

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