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The Silent History: A Novel

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  431 ratings  ·  90 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)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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)
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 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
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).
Imagine newborns arriving without the ability to speak or understand language of any kind. Now consider how the general population would react to this phenomenon, attributed to a virus transmitted in utero. NOW, remember that a virus, like everything in the universe, is not static.
This plot-driven story was an interesting read and mostly compelling although it did lag for me a bit in some places. The format of the whole book being recorded interviews starting in 2011 and ending in 2044. Characte
(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
Review originally posted on Worn Pages and Ink.

This synopsis captured my attention right away. I love these stories about mysterious illnesses or epidemics, seemingly insolvable and without any apparent cause. I love the exploration of the way humanity copes with sudden and rapid change. The Silent History is told in the form of testimonials of those who have experiences and interaction with those born without speech, or the “Silents.” These testimonials weave together and carry through the book
Coming over, very satisfactorily, as one of those rare break-out books that feel like sci-fi but are really general fiction, this book powerfully conveys its themes with a large host of characters, and a strong sense of psychological conviction. In this alternative timeline of the USA, right about now people are finding out that they're not alone in having a kid who is completely silent – unable to speak, even to read or follow instruction – in fact, unable to parse anything whatsoever as a lang ...more
I haven't done this in awhile - gone to the library and picked up a book off the new release shelf because it seemed interesting. This book was first a serial phone app. If I had read it that way, I would have been jonesing for each episode waaaay before they posted them. So reading them all in book form was great. I had no idea it was originally an app.
The story progresses as testimonials only. The premise is that a group of children begin to be born silent starting around 2015. The testimonial
Julie Lit
Troublant. Écrit sous la forme de témoignages et d'extraits de dépêches journalistique, ce roman nous plonge dans un futur pas si lointain, où sont découverts des cas "d'enfants silencieux", des enfants qui ne manifestent ni intérêt pour la communication ou pour la parole. C'est à travers les témoignages de parents, d'enseignants, d'illuminés (!), de policiers, de chercheurs que l'on découvre les multiples facettes de cette maladie.

Certaines longueurs dans le roman pourraient décourager le lecte
Desmond Charles Reid
It quickly became obvious they were different and there was a whole generation of them. Children born without speech, without comprehension and language to interpret the world around them.

Medical curiosities, they soon grow into numbers to be a highly visible underclass living on the fringe of society.
Through multiple testimonies: parents, doctors, government officials, vigilantes we slowly start to see what happens when the 'silents' multiple throughout the world.

The characters we follow are ma
In the not too distant future a number of children are born without the ability to speak, or it seems to even process language. As it becomes more widespread, parents, doctors and researchers study the phenomena without any luck in finding the cause or the cure. It is only when the children are discovered to communicate with each other through minute facial movements that it seems there is some hope for the future.

The story is told through many points of view. Some are fleeting voices; others ar
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 with a very narrow view of life during that time.

I won't go into details b
David 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).
Sean K.
Written in the epistolary literary tradition, by implementing the ever ubiquitous fictionalized series of personal accounts of a single event-centered timeline, employed most notably in Max Brooks' "World War Z," and initially published online via smart phone application, Eli Horowitz and Co. have achieved something that reaches beyond the inventiveness of mere technologically innovative and experimental storytelling, producing a work of speculative science fiction that rivals all of its contemp ...more
This book is a little weird, but I actually really liked it. Told in short testimonials of approximately 15 characters about what happened to the US (and the world, but the book is centered here) when children start to be born without linguistic function. It's mostly told through the perspectives of those who slipped through the cracks, those who suffered most, and about how even those who were "successes" still struggled. It suffers from the serialization aspect, I think, since the finished man ...more
Eleazar Herrera
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sally Shrem
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.
The format was what interested me - serialized chapters (even though I came to it after all were already released) accompanied by location-based "field reports" that you access by traveling to real places and syncing up your phone. Very cool idea, but no locations near me so ultimately my reading experience wasn't any different than another e-book. The book's definitely not just format gimmick, and the story was an interesting one, but I did feel like it lacked a little in character development. ...more
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
This was a great, futuristic, composite novel about a generation of children who are born without the capacity to learn or understand language. They are unable to talk, understand speech, read or write. There is a certain irony in a long book about people who can't write or voice their own opinions, but it works well, particularly as it's told through a range of voices. Some people love the 'silents', others are afraid of them, some want to find a 'cure' for their condition, others want to prote ...more

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.
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Eli Horowitz is the managing editor and publisher of the Dave Eggers'-founded publishing concern, McSweeney's.
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