Synopses & 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 dont learn to read, dont learn to write. Theories spread—maybe its related to a popular antidepressant. Maybe these children, without the ability to use or comprehend language, have special skills of their own.
Unfolding in a series of brief testimonials from parents, teachers, friends, doctors, cult leaders, profiteers, impostors—everyone touched by the silent phenomenon except, of course, the children themselves—The Silent History is both a bold storytelling experiment and an unexpectedly propulsive reading experience. Originally conceived and serially published as an award-winning iPhone/iPad app by Eli Horowitz, the former publisher of McSweeneys, along with the acclaimed novelists Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett and the intrepid coder Russell Quinn, the book has been reedited and, at times, rewritten into a definitive, nuanced, and unputdownable text, a story that is timely, timeless, and terrifying.
"Form follows, explores, and transforms function in this novel, originally written as an iPhone/iPad app and now being published, and holding its own, on the printed page. Short narratives field reports, log entries, anecdotal memoirs offer a jigsaw-puzzle oral history starting in the present (2011) and advancing into the future (2044), documenting the evolution of a disaster, as an increasing number of children fail to develop language, not due to physical or mental impairment, but due to indifference. Whether this indifference is the result of drugs, the environment, mindless innovation, or biological mutation (no one can be sure), for 'silents,' language has no meaning. A teacher describes futile attempts at classroom management; a politician recounts using the situation to career advantage; a doctor details speech therapy without verbal communication; a New Age groupie confesses to feeling envious. Because they are marginalized, ostracized, and demonized, some silents withdraw into clandestine communities, rather than submit to technology that imposes speech, if not self-expression. Storytelling, both on screen and in print, relies on character, setting, plot, theme, and, of course, language. Three authors work together here to master these elements, presenting an ingenious variety of perspectives and locations that create a richly textured vision of a dystopian future. If the ending is a letdown after so much inventiveness, readers are left with plenty to think about, including the role of language in family and society, personal development and interpersonal relations, and communication and community. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Terrific." —The Wall Street Journal "Ingenious . . . A richly textured vision of a dystopian future." —Publishers Weely (Starred Review) "Fascinating." —Liz Colville, San Francisco Chronicle "A sprawling, captivating work." —Dave Thier, Forbes "Brilliant . . . A vital work of art." —The Huffington Post
A generation of children forced to live without words.
It begins as a statistical oddity: a spike in children born with acute speech delays. Physically normal in every way, these children never speak and do not respond to speech; they don't learn to read, don't learn to write. As the number of cases grows to an epidemic level, theories spread. Maybe it's related to a popular antidepressant; maybe it's environmental. Or maybe these children have special skills all their own.
The Silent History unfolds in a series of brief testimonials from parents, teachers, friends, doctors, cult leaders, profiteers, and impostors (everyone except, of course, the children themselves), documenting the growth of the so-called silent community into an elusive, enigmatic force in itself—alluring to some, threatening to others. Both a bold storytelling experiment and a propulsive reading experience, Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby, and Kevin Moffett's The Silent History is at once thrilling, timely, and timeless.
About the Author
was the managing editor and then publisher of McSweeney's. He is the co-author of The Clock Without a Face
, a treasure-hunt mystery; Everything You Know Is Pong
, an illustrated cultural history of Ping-Pong; and The New World
, a collaboration with Chris Adrian, forthcoming from FSG.
Matthew Derby is the author of the short-story collection Super Flat Times. His writing has appeared in The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, McSweeney's, Conjunctions, The Believer, and Guernica. He lives in Rhode Island.
Kevin Moffett is the author of Permanent Visitors and Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events. He lives in Claremont, California.