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A Song for Quiet

(Persons Non Grata #2)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  950 ratings  ·  155 reviews
Deacon James is a rambling bluesman straight from Georgia, a black man with troubles that he can't escape, and music that won't let him go. On a train to Arkham, he meets trouble — visions of nightmares, gaping mouths and grasping tendrils, and a madman who calls himself John Persons. According to the stranger, Deacon is carrying a seed in his head, a thing that will destr ...more
Kindle Edition, 64 pages
Published August 29th 2017 by Tor.com
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Cassandra Like, maybe a 3-4 compared to my usual stuff.

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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Oct 11, 2021 rated it it was ok
After a buddy read of Khaw’s Lovecraftian-themed Hammers on Bone, we decided to try the subsequent novella. I was hopeful that a new protagonist–a bluesman–would provide a change from the odd vernacular and breathe some new notes into the relentless picture of decay. Unfortunately, though there are bits and pieces of stellar writing, there’s also a lot of self-indulgent and purple prose that becomes just so much scat when Khaw tries to take it into the metaphysical. Add to it a protagonist that ...more
Oct 08, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2021-reads
“You can’t murder that which is eternal, that which will lie until death itself passes. But you can slow it, cripple it, hobble it. You can hurt your nightmares; it’s a two-way street.”
This story is set in the same universe as the first novella in the series, Hammers on Bone, but a few decades earlier, and the protagonist of that one, (view spoiler) John Persons, is a secondary character here — but it’s really a standalone. This is a Lovecraftian world full of h
Oct 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017-books, 2017
Shortly after the death of his father, bluesman Deacon James rolls into Arkham with an otherworldly song in his head and a sinister detective, John Persons, on his trail...

I follow Cassandra Khaw on twitter and she mentioned needing reviews for this. Since I liked her first John Persons novella, Hammers on Bone, I was all over it like a ghoul on an unsuspecting citizen of Arkham.

Noir mixed with cosmic horror is the best combo since chocolate and peanut butter and A Song for Quiet is a prime exam
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My gods, I loved this! Deep DEEP Jazz meets gibbering horrors and the connections between memory, selflessness, and total sacrifice WITHIN the music.

The prose was jazz in its most intensely lyrical and dense and evocative!

Like... total purple prose, man. But here, it was absolutely gorgeous. Syncopated tune with counterbeats to a Cthuhlu horror eating memories even as the most delicious riff, harmony, and melody bridged two souls together on the stage.

Deep, emotional, utterly horrific. I imagine

I just want to say that I don’t know what I just read. I don’t know if it’s fiction or a fantasy or a musical. Whatever it is I am confused. I definitely don’t know if I enjoyed it.

I don’t remember the beginning, don’t understand the middle and don’t like the ending.

What I can tell you is that the story is based in Arkham, Massachusetts, a place that exists in Lovecraft lore. But I don’t remember any mythos of the world of Lovecraft.

Deacon, the protagonist of the story, is battling a person
Feb 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lovecrafty, horror
Wow, thanks for introducing me to this singer, author!
Geeshie Wiley - Last Kind Words
Elle Maruska
Just so you know, Cassandra Khaw's work is my aesthetic.

I mean this 100%.

This book makes me hurt with how viscerally, disgustingly, triumphantly good it is. It's Lovecraft elevated to human art instead of just dry cosmic musings; the characters in this book are so real you ache for them, you feel your own bile rise as they confront nameless horror. There is a such a strong thread of call-and-answer in this story, questions characters ask being asked of the reader as well, sacrifices the charac
A bluesman from Georgia comes to Arkham, but is beset by horrific visions and a strange man by the name of John Persons.

I didn't love this quite as much as the first book, but it's still a compelling story with the customary beautiful writing from Cassandra.
K.J. Charles
A lyrical, deeply weird horror novella about a bluesman with a song in his head that will end the world (and since he's black in 1950s USA, you can see the temptation). As with the best horror, humanity comes across as pretty much as awful as the Old Ones with tentacles, although those are also spectacularly grim.

Khaw's writing is incredibly rich, with the saturation turned up to 100 all the time to dizzying effect, and her knack for vividly revolting images has not deserted her (insert canniba
Oct 11, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: horror
This story really could've been something. The blues mixed with Lovecraft. Definite potential.

We meet Deacon James while he's riding a train to Arkham, famed fictional city of Lovecraft's. Between his recent past and this quote, I connected with him right off the bat.
Deacon looks up as civilization robs the night of its endlessness, finger painting globs of light and farmhouses across the countryside.

I was thinking that this might've been an update to Lovecraft's "The Music of Erich Zahn."
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Lyrical prose and interesting enough story about a bluesman on a train with something going on in his head, and creatures doing anything to retrieve it. Never read the 1st so not sure if any different but just didnt work as a novella for me.
DeAnna Knippling
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
An uncanny song that leads a bluesman on a road he would rather not walk.

If you liked the first book in the series, you'll probably like this one, too; it's inventive historical horror and a fun read. The only thing that dragged it down a little was that the reader wasn't quite brought on board smoothly. The story seemed to assume that I had read this right after the first one and would remember things like, oh, what the main character from the first story was like, what year it was, where the l
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I totally forgot to review this, so here's a quick one.

Awesome story, connected to the first book, it can definitely be read on its own but you really need a least a little understanding of Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos or you're going to be really confused.

The writing's pretty heavy, you have to concentrate and I admit to hitting the dictionary a couple of times, but the imagery is superb.
Alasdair Stuart
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Deacon James is a blues man. Not the stereotypical figure of a blues man either. There's no deals done at crossroads, no careful deployment of artfully vague music as magic. Deacon is good at what he does, famous enough to be a little noticed, and folded in half with grief.

Deacon is also in the wrong place at the right time, his grief and anger combining with something truly monstrous and propelling him into the centre of a situation so vast he can only perceive some of it. A situation that John
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am reviewing both books in the Persons Non Grata series at the same time (this one and Hammers on Bone). I have spent the year trying to read things I don't usually, horror and novellas, and honestly, I am kind of glad I did.

I recently told a friend of mine, (Hey Dan) I thought that some writers did Lovecraft better than Lovecraft did himself (weird sentence there..) Ms. Khaw happens to be one of them. As a reader who enjoys the Chulthu mythos more than the actual Lovecraft works, I love the f
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was ok
This was a huuuuge downgrade from the first book.

First of all, why would you limit John Persons this much? He was such a great character. He was, in my opinion, was the best thing about the first book. He was the sole reason I started reading this one. And replace him with a character like Deacon? I don’t know. Deacon started great, just like the novella itself, and gradually became worse as the book progressed.

Second, I think this story is the living proof that sacrificing coherence, plot, emo
Eddie Generous
Oct 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Unnerving Magazine Review
Though the second of a series, ​​A Song for Quiet reveals a significantly different tale from its predecessor. Firstly, it’s not a hardboiled detective noir, despite involving that character. This fact was somewhat disappointing, at least initially until I got over my expectations.
A hard-up bluesman is torn between a subconscious cosmic tugging and the difficult world around him. That's the sum of it until the threat of complete world annihilation comes into play.
It’s l
This was even better than the first one.

What. A. Book.
I've never read anything similar to this novella series. Not only because Lovecraftian Noir and Lovecraftian Southern Gothic aren't everyone's favorite genres, but also because I never found horror written this well before.

A Song for Quiet is the second book in the Persons Non Grata series, but it's set long before Hammers on Bone. Its main character is a black bluesman, Deacon James, whose music just won't let him go - it's slowly taking con
Jared Millet
So I guess "Lovecraftian Novella" is a genre all its own now, this being the third one I've read in the last twelve months. I can't say that I enjoyed this one as much as The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe or The Ballad of Black Tom . A Song for Quiet treads some of the same ground as Black Tom, but it's more overtly horror than either of the others I've read. Cassandra Khaw has a knack for drumming up tension, but she's also got a love of florid language that sometimes goes over the top.

Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-star-reads
Khaw has a brilliant and awesome grasp of language usage... and i love how she uses music and its terminology throughout this tale... Cthulhu-inspired works take a tough road, as some authors have near-mastered the worlds of The Old Ones and make dipping ones tentacles there to be fraught with failure and/or overwrought writing... Khaw succeeds admirably, fantastically, viscerally... her descriptives flow, nay ooze, with menace and awfulness... a grand adventure, touching and raw and dreary and ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Not quite as interesting as the first, since it lacks the sort of puzzlebox element of figuring out who exactly is what.

I will say that I am amused at how Mythos fiction is gradually turning into a PoC-focused genre, as multiple authors react against Lovecraft's racism with an eye towards centering PoC as the main characters. It rather helps that, interestingly, cosmic horror is actually a really good metaphor for widespread and institutionalized racism.
Sep 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Cassandra Khaw is a really, really good writer. And this story is fascinating. But.... it's too complete to be a short story and too incomplete to be a novella. The reader isn't allowed far enough into the world to appreciate the greater arc at play. ...more
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A grieving blue singer starts to feel an urge to sing a song that could destroy the world. Beautifully written tale of grief and hope and the language Khaw uses go paint this picture is gorgeous - her ability to paint music into words is really unique to read. Strongly recommended!
I loved the beginning of the book. I love the combo of cosmic horror and noir crime novella.

But...Purple prose has limits and I hit the wall around the 75% mark. I slogged on. A formerly interesting character changed into a wild, vindictive Mary Sue! The plot fell apart into tiny, shining shards of black beetles scuttling about my little device. As the beetles fell to the floor, the book lay in villa covered ruins, covered in brown viscera, my hands limply falling to my side unable to wipe away
Alex Sarll
A bluesman rides the train to Arkham, with new music in his head that's raw and powerful and somehow deeply wrong (if proof were needed, it's music which, in its first eruption, demands to be played out loud on public transport). Out of the corner of his eye, or just before passing out, he keeps catching glimpses of terrible things, and Khaw's prose is beautifully measured at making us feel the same way he does, not quite sure we saw what we think we did, but unsettled all the same. There are a ...more
Bridget Mckinney
Nov 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I want to say I loved this little book, the second in Cassandraw Khaw’s Persons Non Grata series, but the truth is that I am just Lovecraft-homaged-out these days, which made it a tough read for me. That said, A Song for Quiet is a definite improvement upon Khaw’s previous Lovecraftian novella, Hammers on Bone. It’s better paced, with a more interesting main character in Deacon James, and it does a much better job of capturing the sense of truly cosmic horror that Lovecraft was known for. There’ ...more
Owen Townend
I came across this book while browsing the Waterstones tent at last year's Bradford Literature Festival. Blues Horror certainly isn't a genre I've read before.

A Song for Quiet is a short but compelling cat-and-mouse narrative with some glorious layered description blending musical terminology with uncanny nightmare. Deacon James is a likeable protagonist, a grieving Bluesman who also must navigate a society hostile to the colour of his skin. He puts up with a lot but he certainly isn't expecting
Stephanie Griffin
Oct 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh my, oh my, oh my. Cassandra Khaw has created an outstanding example of a horror story. This second book of the Persons Non Grata duology is a tale of death, grief, destruction, and rebuilding.
While the first book, HAMMERS ON BONE, was more of a straight-on story with lots of body horror, this one gets downright hallucinogenic and I loved it.
Deacon James is on his way to play his saxophone in a small New England diner. He’s taking a train up north, still grieving over his father’s recent death
Outside, the streetlamps blink wetly.

But Deacon keeps singing, bass rasped down to a croak, and the audience keeps listening, still and quiet as bones in a pot; not even the kitchen breathes, no sizzle of meat on the grill or clatter of plates, no noise at all except for Deacon’s voice. Except for that goddamned song, pounding in his temples, pounding through the air, a shuddering thing like the earth itself is in labor . . . .

I love Khaw's voice, her word choice, her aesthetic. I loved this sto
Mike Beatty
Jan 02, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021
This was a short and, I think, entertaining read in the vein of Cosmic Horror made popular by H.P. Lovecraft so long ago.

The writer is capable and I would argue, quite skilled. The style was not necessarily to my taste - it was extremely flowery and abstract, it read at times like poetry. Not to say that is a bad thing, just not for me.

Despite this, I read the novella in two sittings and found myself entertained throughout. There were times where the writing had me feeling a little irritated;
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Cassandra Khaw is a senior scriptwriter at Ubisoft Montreal. Her next novella NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH is a haunted house story where messy people make really bad decisions.

Other books in the series

Persons Non Grata (2 books)
  • Hammers on Bone (Persons Non Grata, #1)

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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
60 likes · 15 comments
“You can’t murder that which is eternal, that which will lie until death itself passes. But you can slow it, cripple it, hobble it.

You can hurt your nightmares; it’s a two-way street.”
“Blues is about wanting and not having, about putting that need into someone else's hands for a little while so you can pause and breathe.” 2 likes
More quotes…