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The Silent History

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,219 ratings  ·  202 reviews
from The Silent History website:

The Silent History is a novel, written and designed specially for iPad and iPhone, that uses serialization, exploration, and collaboration to tell the story of a generation of unusual children.

The story is presented in two forms: Testimonials and Field Reports.

Testimonials are presented in the form of oral histories told by characters dire
Published October 2012 by YING HOROWITZ & QUINN LLC
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Average rating 3.60  · 
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 ·  1,219 ratings  ·  202 reviews

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Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Althea Ann
A selection of my post-apocalyptic book club.

The Silent History was apparently initially published as an online, 'interactive' serial. Perhaps the transition to novel format did not serve it well; but I had a few issues with the book.

The idea itself is interesting: children start being born who, while not mentally deficient in other respects, lack the capacity for language. The storytelling device is borrowed from World War Z: a documentarian is supposedly interviewing a number of different ch
Genia Lukin
Mar 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
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
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Steffi ~mereadingbooks~
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
Jan 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
andrew y
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kaitlyn S.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Matt Brehaut
Jun 20, 2015 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, unfinished
The premise seemed really good, I enjoyed about the first 200 pages, and after that I was reading more and more slowly, and finding other things to do instead of reading it, and I realized I no longer cared how it ended, so I didn't finish it. ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is billed as ‘Children of Men meets World War Z’, but this description (while it hooked me in) doesn’t provide an accurate picture. The Silent History isn’t as violent or austere as that summary would suggest. The action is played out largely on the emotional spectrum, and it does this very well.

I loved how so many of the characters had a clear and recognizable voice; some of them were all too real for me (Patti and Prashant in particular), which was both hilarious and uncomfortable. T
Jun 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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,
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)
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
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Julian Douglass
Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Working with children who have special needs makes me really connect with this book. This shows a diverse cast of characters who try to make the best out of the situation that they are presented with, and tries to find harmony that can solve every problem. But, what is good for one person is not good for another. The story line shows this and the true emotions that parents, public officials, and others face with dealing with kids with a range of disabilities. I like the POV approach that this no ...more
Feb 01, 2015 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
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has much to say about language, consciousness, disability, neurodiversity, and mass hysteria, but it is also a page-turner that kept shifting in unexpected directions until the last pages.
One of the authors, Matthew Derby, came to present our literary organization in Nanuet, NY, and spoke movingly about his sister Margaret, a multiply-disabled child who could not speak and who died in early adulthood.
He also talked about the development of The Silent History as an iPhone app before it
David Erik Nelson
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing

(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).
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was ok

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.
John Bene
Oct 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
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.
NOTE: I read this as the paperback book, not as an app, which probably affected the experience.

Reviewing this book is going to be quite a task. There was some that was good here, a lot that was bad or uncomfortable, and a ton that was neutral. Let me start by caveating that I know this book started as an app, so I understand there might be some nuance and experience lost in translation, which might contribute some to my issues.

I'll start with some negatives. The first problem is that while the
Julie  Capell
Fascinating thought experiment about how language shapes us, how we think, how we relate to one another, how we understand ourselves and our world. As a student of languages, language acquisition and linguistics, the topic alone is enough to give me goosebumps of happiness. The book also has an unusual format, great writing and truly unique characters. Add to that some truly compelling ethical questions and you have a winning combination.

Chapters are extremely short, each written from the point
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
With shades of Orwell and Ray Bradbury, The Silent History captivates from the very beginning with the creation of its own internal world, while establishing the threshold against which every character will eventually somehow pitch themselves. Given a futuristic edge by the dating of reports (rather than chapters) by successive participants, the sense of silence for each of us when we face the unknown dangles enticingly as a fear to be embraced or fled.
The choice of characters and their lines of
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A hugely ambitious, insanely well-executed project, The Silent History is funny, sad, prophetic, and human. It feels very ahead of its time and pushes what fiction can do. I read it as part of my "pandemic book playlist," and it offered a unique, refreshing perspective.

I loved the sensation of the story's subjects being seen, but never heard from. Their story functions as sort of a negative space outlined by the witnesses being affected by them. Early in the book, the spread of witnesses is wide
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have to say, from the first chapters on, I really did enjoy this story. I found myself looking forward to picking it back up after I had to put it down. The premise is unique, and although some reviewers commented that the physiological aspects written in this book were not scientifically correct, I tried to focus on the philosophical aspects of what was happening to the characters, and how it would affect our society if it really happened.

I also enjoyed how the story was told, like a diary, t
Craig Dean
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Intriguing but flawed, and ultimately just not that interesting - particularly in the (presumably deliberate) unsatisfying conclusion. The story is well presented and promises more than it delivers; and I felt the nature of the silence lacked self-consistency both in causation and expression. The characters ranged from hyper-real to hyper-surreal, so there are occasional gems in a sea of distraction.

I felt the book was analogous to a whistling firework with no bang. Loud, anticipatory and fundam
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
To say this book was one of the most original, interesting ideas I've ever come across would do it a disservice. It is one of those stories that will stick with you long after you've finished it, haunting your every thought.

I found this book accidentally in a wayward bookstore in Hong Kong, and I'm so glad I didn't leave it behind.
Joy (joyous reads)
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I was under the impression that this book is a horror. But as the chapters flew by, it quickly become clearer that it was more Sci-Fi than anything. I enjoy Sci-Fi/horror anyway, and since I don’t have very many of those, I’m always game to dive in. However, I felt that this book went way too long for my taste and it didn’t have the sustainability to keep a reader like me.

In here, we find a generation of children without voice and no means of communication. It was as if they were born without th
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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

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Here’s some trivia for your next vacation get-together: The concept of the summer “beach read” book goes all the way back to the Victorian...
44 likes · 13 comments
“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.” 5 likes
“People talk too much anyway. A life of talking and you say probably three good things. Accidentally.” 2 likes
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