Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Silent History” as Want to Read:
The Silent History
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Silent History

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  886 Ratings  ·  144 Reviews
An innovative literary thriller about a generation of children born unable to create or comprehend language

Sometime right around now, doctors, nurses, and—most of all—parents begin to notice an epidemic spreading among children. Children who are physically normal in every way except that they do not speak and do not respond to speech; they don’t learn to read, don’t learn
Paperback, 528 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by FSG Originals (first published October 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 09, 2014 Oriana rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2014
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 ...more
Feb 19, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
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
Jun 09, 2014 andrew rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2015 April rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Steffi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Review also available on my blog.

I was provided an ARC by the publisher via

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
Sep 27, 2014 Agrimorfee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Genia Lukin
I really should stop reading books that have anything to do with Linguistics. Or disability. Or, God help me, both.


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
Jun 22, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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,
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
Jul 26, 2014 Kaitlyn rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Nelson
Mar 01, 2013 David Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

(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).
Raül De Tena
May 08, 2015 Raül De Tena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Dentro de “La Historia Silenciosa” (editado en nuestro país de la mano de Seix Barral) conviven varios libros, libros convergentes más que divergentes, libros que circulan en paralelo unos respecto a los otros pero que eligen un momento muy diferente para brillar en solitario sin necesidad de pisar a los demás. Pueden buscarse los rastros de esta multi-cefalia narrativa en el hecho de que esta sea una novela escrita a tres voces, las de Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby y Kevin Moffett; y, de hecho, l ...more
Oct 20, 2015 Vanessa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Once again I'm in the minority with my scoring of my enjoyment of a book.

THat's ok but even discovering that The Silent History began as an app, doled out in chapters didn't make it work any better for me, although I did read it in small portions accidentally because I couldn't get into it.

How three intelligent guys can get together and work on what was a great idea and should have been an exciting and enthralling storyline managed to produce a book that is so hard to follow and nonsensical is
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)
Oct 13, 2014 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(9/10) The Silent History was eventually an app and is now a book. Buy whichever format is most convenient for you -- the (mostly unexploited) digital nature of the text is probably the least interesting thing about it. But do buy it (or beg, borrow and steal) because this is a dynamic, interesting, and sometimes beautiful science-fiction story.

The basic premise is that twenty minutes into the future, children start being born with no cognitive capacity to learn or understand language. This has
Apr 24, 2015 Holly rated it liked it
Full review is posted on my blog:

This book was really good up until the ending. I loved the way it was written from numerous different perspectives and how the characters all came to be connected in ways I never would have predicted. The entire idea of the "silents" was fascinating, but I do wish that it gave more than a mere glimmer of society as a whole rather than focusing on the stories of a few individuals. I felt like the story provided the reader
Jun 12, 2015 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has great style and a compelling story. It’s style or conceit it similar to one of my other favourite books, World War Z. Individuals reflect on the events of the ‘past’ starting in our present and moving to the not too distant future. The story of what has happened unfolds as each character begins to tell their individual story. People start to be born without any language ability.
In the way that “World War Z” is about collective fear, pandemics, environmental collapse etc. “The Sile
Riadiani Marcelita
Mar 03, 2016 Riadiani Marcelita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed
I picked up this book thinking it was a non-fiction. The summary in the back cover sounded so scientific, I thought it was an actual memoir of a real-life phenomenon. I was a little disappointed when I learned it was fiction, though, because the phenomena of silent children seem very, very interesting to me.

The book is basically a compilation of "memoirs" or "testimonies" from parents, teachers, siblings, relatives, and friends of "silents," a group of children born verbally disabled. The book d
Jul 27, 2016 Maya rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who don't mind taking their time to read a novel
Solid 4 stars.

I really enjoyed this book and the way it was set out. A couple warnings, though, before you decide to run off and get it because it DOES sound really interesting :

1. This is NOT meant to be a fast read. It's meant to be picked at, thought about, internalized.
2. This is set up documentary-style. It's not a fiction with the standard chapter after chapter of dialogue. There's very little dialogue in it, actually.
3. There are a LOT of characters. Each chapter is a different character
Apr 04, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book that really hits home if you have a connection with people with autism. The basic premise involves a generation of children born with no ability to comprehend or express language. It is written from the perspectives of many people, including parents, teachers, politicians, wacko new age types, and medical professionals. As such it provides a good cross section of the reactions of society to people who are very different from the norm, and here there are a lot of commo ...more
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 ...more
Feb 01, 2015 Sansku rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
i had to take an extended break from reading this due to illness, but the time gap between my reading wasn't a big deal. sometimes when i take a break from a book, i find it hard to get back into the same headspace to immerse myself in the story, but it wasn't like that at all for this novel. i was hoping for a more definitive ending, but overall i think the way that the book was written - in testimonials - was perfect for the kind of story that was told. it was really interesting to see the sil ...more
Eleazar Herrera
Jan 12, 2015 Eleazar Herrera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recomendadísimo. Hasta el final no sabía qué podía pasar con la gente silenciosa. Me ha encantado el coro de voces, las historias entrelazadas... Si bien en algunos momentos he pensado que le sobraban páginas, no eran demasiados. Hacia la mitad baja el ritmo y luego vuelve a coger energía. Muy diferente a lo que estoy acostumbrada a leer.
El primer acierto de 2015.
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.
Jun 29, 2014 Ginny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book read like an especially eerie episode of The X-Files without Scully and Mulder (which is a shame). It was captivating, but I felt it left some threads untied and all the truly likable characters were, well, silent (which may have been the point). I'm curious how it reads as an app (I read the novel) because that sounds innovative (but library books are free and this app isn't).
Sally Shrem
Jan 28, 2015 Sally Shrem rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2014
I really enjoyed this book. Although a slow and frankly boring read at times, it was very interesting and different enough to keep me coming back. Do I think it needed to be over 500 pages? Absolutely not. By the middle of the book I was mostly skimming, trying to find the point of some of the chapters. However I enjoyed it and I'm happy I read it.
Sep 13, 2015 MJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, paranormal
I'm on the fence with this book. I loved the premise and plowed through the first half of the book in no time. Some of the accounts made me laugh, but I felt no emotional connection. Around 'Volume 4' it started becoming a chore to get through, and I found the ending unsatisfying. 3 stars.
John Bene
May 18, 2013 John Bene rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 09, 2013 Manjula rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Maul
  • The Destructives
  • The Machine
  • Cataclysm Baby
  • Iterating Grace: Heartfelt Wisdom and Disruptive Truths from Silicon Valley's Top Venture Capitalists
  • Sky Saw
  • Looking for the Mahdi
  • Shambleau
  • Alanya to Alanya
  • The Art of Disappearing
  • Life
  • The Only Ones
  • Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+: Your Insider's Lifetime Guide to Executive Job-Changing and Faster Career Progress in the 21st Century
  • The Crystal Drop
  • Becoming Human (Harmony of Worlds, #2)
  • What We Cannot Know
  • Clade
  • The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles and the Erasure of Memory (Haymarket)
Eli Horowitz is the co-creator of The Silent History, a digital novel; The Clock Without a Face, a treasure-hunt mystery; and Everything You Know Is Pong, an illustrated cultural history of table tennis. He was the managing editor and then publisher of McSweeney’s; his design work has been honored by I.D., Print and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Previously, he wrote science trivia questi ...more
More about Eli Horowitz...

Share This Book

“What unknown abilities had filled this void? Was the world somehow brighter, more tangible, without the nagging interference of language? Was the absence of words actually a form of freedom? I've often tried to quiet that constant voice in my mind, to try to experience the world the way they might—but always the questions rush in faster than I can carve out a moment of true silence.” 3 likes
More quotes…