Perhaps the only thing that terrifies humanity more than creating something deadly is unleashing what was hiding in the dark. In Tim Lebbon’s The Silence, a cave expedition releases a plague of flying reptiles that sweeps across the continent, killing all in its path.
Cities burn, the fabric of society begins to unravel and gory videos surface online as the swarm of ‘vesps’ nears the Channel. They hunt by sound, making quick work of capital cities: they consume whatever they find and reproduce unnaturally fast by laying eggs in their victims. The key to survival is clear: stay quiet; stay alive.
Father and daughter Huw and Ally head for a remote part of Scotland to wait out the catastrophe. But the trek north puts them at risk not only from the man-eating flock infesting Britain, but also from the increasingly desperate survivors they meet along the way. Deaf from a car accident, 14-year-old Ally is used to a world without sound, and sign language proves invaluable to her and her family, but it also marks her out as a target later on.
Lebbon’s novel starts off slow, but the terror of the unknown the vesps represent, coupled with his take on global cataclysm in the social media age, make The Silence stand out. Each chapter starts with a cynical tweet or Facebook post. It’s an interesting gimmick, as you can well believe that many would be skeptical or even bitter in the face of a worldwide panic.
Seeing the ravaged world through Ally’s eyes, you come to feel for her family’s plight. It keeps the tension going, because you want them to make it. The lengths that people will go to in order to survive has always made for interesting reading, and The Silence is a chilling story that grips you firmly by the throat.