Audiobook Review: The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

30 04 2011

The Silent Land: A Novel by Graham Joyce

Read by John Lee

Blackstone Audio

Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: An Epic Love story set apart for its intimate look at a genuine couple in a unique situation, read well by the narrator.

Grade: B+

It’s been a long time since I read anything by Graham Joyce, probably too long. Joyce was always one of those authors who could blend genres, whether it be horror, romance, fantasy and science fiction seamlessly, and create something distinctly his own. Sadly, until recently, his work has not been produced in audio form, which I personally believe it would translate very well into. So, when I saw that his latest novel, The Silent Land was being offered as an audiobook, I was excited. It’s hard to talk about expectations when discussing one of Joyce’s novels, because each of his novels that I have read has been quite unique. So, I had no idea of what to expect. The basic synopsis appealed to me, a married couple on a ski vacation escape from an avalanche, to discover that there is no else around. As a fan of Post Apocalyptic novels, this concept fascinated me. Not that I was expecting a Post Apocalyptic novel, but like Shelley’s The Last Man, or MP Sheil’s The Purple Cloud, the element of being left alone in our world is both frightening, and intriguing.

The Silent Land is, in truth, an epic love story. The fantastical background that Joyce creates is just that, the canvas that reveals the art. I have never been a huge fan of the Epic Love story, because typically, the players involved just don’t seem authentic to me, or are themselves epic in nature, a state of being that I just cannot relate to. Yet, Zoe and Jake, our couple, are not epic personas, but a truly real couple. They do not allow the strangeness of their situations prevent them from fighting over petty issues. They argue, make love, tease and are often cruel. They are simply a real couple, in an increasing unreal situation. Joyce doesn’t force the romance down our throats, he just develops the characters in such a way that their love becomes obvious. Joyce doesn’t try to use tricks to garner an emotional response, either. While the novel is in part a mysterious fantasy, he doesn’t leave the audience dragging for too long, revealing the scope of the world that Zoe and Jake inhabit, yet still leaving enough up in the air to allow for a satisfying ending. The Silent Land works like a puzzle, Joyce shows you all the pieces, and when they all finally come together, you are left satisfied with the entirety of the picture presented to you. 

It was interesting to hear John Lee tale on such a small, intimate novel. My experiences with Lee have been huge, epic novels like The Pillars of the Earth, or multi-character science fiction tale, like Baxter/Clarke’s Time Odyssey series. John Lee has a crisp, strong voice, with a decent range to handle multiple characters. Here Lee doesn’t need to use his range as much, since he is mostly dealing with two characters. I liked Lee’s reading to The Silent Land. He brought a steady matter of fact tone to the narration, never trying to play whimsical or mysterious, just allowing the words to speak for themselves. His characterizations of Jake and Zoe were well done. Lee found the right tone for the couple whether they where arguing cruelly, or just engaging in playful teasing. The Silent Land wasn’t my favorite Joyce novel, but hopefully the success of this audio adaptation will lead to more of his works being brought to the audio format.

 

Note: A special thank you to the good people at Blackstone Audio for providing me with a copy of this audiobook. You can purchase this audiobook at all major bookseller sites, or at Blackstone’s own website HERE.

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