Mark Lawrence's Reviews > Silent City

Silent City by G.R. Matthews
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When you type "Silent City" into Goodreads search this is the 9th hit!

The title, and elements of the cover, shout (silently) supernatural horror at me. But the book is nothing of the sort.

It's more like a 1940s noir detective yarn, only without any real detecting going on. We have the hard drinking "hero" with the dark backstory, his life revolving around brooding in a bar, fist fights with strangers, and underwater maintenance.

The book's setting is entirely underwater, with domed cities, fusion-powered subs and strangely clunky computers, all of which lends it a hint of postwar fantasy a la EE Doc Smith where greasy pipe-smoking engineers take wrenches to the star-drive that hurls the ship between galaxies.

I was able to maintain my supernatural horror delusions for a while because all the early mentions of silent cities allowed me to. Actually they turn out to be quite dull things (as entities - this is not to say the story is dull).

The book is a slim volume and contains a fair bit of world building, much of it technical, revolving around the business of operating a "fish suit" and the nitty gritty of navigating submarines using sonar and hunting others. Having spent a few years of my day job researching some of the fundamentals of such things I can say it all seems fairly solid, with the possible exception of the laser communication.

There's plenty of action including the aforementioned fist fights, underwater explosions, rail guns, torpedoes, and base infiltration. A Bondian number of bad guys are clouted round the back of the head with a wrench or otherwise throttled into submission and stuffed in lockers. Well … at least three.

The book ends with a lot of unanswered questions. In fact almost every question I had was left unanswered. But this is Corin Hayes #1 so watch this space.

I would say that the world building and action were the book’s strengths. A judgement on the plot I think will have to wait on the next volume.

The characters were the part I had the hardest time getting a grip on. It’s in first person so we are almost completely occupied with the eponymous Corin Hayes, who as I said ticks many of the noir detective boxes but with rather less motivation – nobody is paying or asking him to solve the mystery … and the mystery isn’t overly mysterious. He does encounter a couple of dames and emotional connections seem to develop at a great rate of knots leaving me feeling a touch unconvinced. And his murdered daughter is dangled before us as plot/character device a few times but again I wasn’t entirely convinced. At the end of the book his contemplation of memories of the daughter’s mutilated corpse are interrupted by dame #1 and within a heartbeat he’s contemplating her small breasts instead.

These character niggles aside, it’s a short book that isn’t short on action or imagination and the setting is an interesting change of pace, so check it out!

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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
January 29, 2017 – Shelved

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