Not too long ago I stumbled upon a Netflix original movie. It was an adaptation of Tim Lebbon's The Silence. For me, it was a rehash of movies like The Happening, and more recently A Quiet Place and Bird Box. But it took it one step further, at least for me, which made me curious about the book, so I picked it up.
To say I was immediately captivated by the novel would be a lie, but I pushed on because I was curious to see how it differed from the film. I'm doing things backwards here, because normally I would read the book prior to seeing the movie, but when other people are involved, things don't always go as planned.
In both the novel and movie, the story focuses on a young deaf girl and her family and how they survive against a sudden invasion by a previously undiscovered species of... Well, nobody knows for certain. They've been slapped with the name Vesps, meaning wasps, but there's nothing insect like about them. They resemble bats, but are larger and more voracious. They are blind and hunt by sound. And they have an appetite for blood. Where did they come from, and why have we not heard about them until there are too many to control? They were sealed in a cavern,locked away from the world until a mining team ripped through the ceiling of their enclosed ecosystem and unleashed them on a world not prepared to handle an invasion of this sort. For Ally and her family, they already live in a world partially ruled by silence. But for the rest of the world? Tell someone to be absolutely quiet for one hour. No noise whatsoever. Many won't be able to do it, not even if they know their lives will depend on it.
Normally, when it comes to adaptations, they always say the book is better than the movie. Most times, I agree. However, in this case, I have to weigh the balance. In the novel, the story takes place in the UK, with the creatures being released in Romania (vampire, anyone?). In the movie, the location has been switched to New Jersey, with the creatures being released in Pennsylvania, which to me makes the family's decision to flee their urban environment for a more isolated area more believable. The threat is closer to home, only a state away, as opposed to being on another continent and being separated by thousands of miles and a large body of water. And the actual invasion of the vesps comes more in the movie than in the novel. In the book, we're more than half way through before the vesps are actually encountered by any of our central characters. And even though it might only be a matter of a couple of days, it seems to take forever to get to the meat of the matter. Once the vesps actually attack, the novel flies. And while character development normally isn't an issue, in this case to have it so isolated in the beginning instead of spread throughout, it slows the pace of the narrative. Lebbon has created a hook but then leaves the reader hanging. Not even the tidbits of information gleaned from news broadcasts and social media is enough to keep the reader (at least this reader) enthralled, and I found myself tempted to skip ahead until the vesps finally appeared.
Many of the elements of the novel have been transferred successfully to the film, and the film has even added a few scenes for dramatic impact. The rattlesnake in the drainpipe, for instance. But I found the pacing of the film to be more balanced than in the book. And thus is the curse of seeing the movie first. Had I read the book first, I probably wouldn't have found an issue with the pacing of the first half.
So is The Silence worth reading? Absolutely. Provided you haven't seen the movie first, The Silence is a captivating read, and if you're a fan of apocalyptic fiction, it's definitely one to add to the list.