I read Darin Bradley's 2010 novel Noise in a single day, not just because I remain housebound and bored in the aftermath of my hellish foot surgery. No, I read this book in a single day mostly because it was an incredible read, brimming with imagination and characterization and a distorted vision of our near future, not quite a dystopian story, not quite a zombie tale (there are no zombies) but it reminded me of one of my favorite movies ever, 28 Days Later, in its story of the immediate aftermath of the collapse of society and how "ordinary" citizens like a small group of college kids attempt to survive. The story is told in first person, by "Hiram", a name the narrator takes as part of the plan to survive, a plan written out by he and his friend "Levi" (nee Adam) in The Book, a Bible of sorts of survival narrative, spelling out what they needed to do before, during, and after The Collapse, written largely from instructions by Salvage, an underground radio and video network using analog signals after the U.S. went fully digital, which has been loudly advocating anarchy and may or may not have actually sparked or perhaps simply prodded The Collapse -- an economic collapse in which the U.S. government was forced to declare bankruptcy, a run on the banks ensues, and then -- basically, according to Salvage, it's every man for himself. And Hiram and Levi are ready. A fascinating and thrilling novel I highly recommend.
Hiram is quite an appealing narrator, written in an imaginative style that flips between the chaotic present-day events and flashbacks to key moments of a suburban adolescence that included the Boy Scouts and T-ball and lots and lots of Dungeons & Dragons but which oddly prepared him for the conspiracy theories and the end-of the-world survival instincts that kick in the moment they hear from Salvage that the Collapse has begun. Passages from The Book - a combination Bible / Constitution / Survival Guide -- mix in with the narrative and help explain the graphic violence that Hiram and Levi partake in, defending heinous acts with a mindset of "us vs. them", "Outsider vs. Group", the theory that when Order collapses, you're going to need to kill and you're going to need to kill "innocents", because if you stop and render help to some poor soul, someone else will attack you to take your stuff. Of course, the novel brings up doubt as to whether the Salvage edicts in favor of anarchy that the boys are following is a necessary last act of desperation in a world without order or if it helped spur the world without order in the first place. The details of the story are told in delicate, yet adrenaline-pumping style, and although the transformation of some characters from mild-mannered citizens to cold-blooded killers is probably unrealistic, there is no excess violence for violence's sake and there are consequences to all of their actions, particularly their decision to take a National Guard Humvee by force. Through it all, in fact, the author spends time to focus on the characters and what they are going through -- particularly Hiram, without any introspective bullshit you'd find in more mainstream tales because - fuck, these kids don't have time for that shit. The world is coming to an end.
Really, really impressive debut novel. You'll fly right through it. I did. And in the author's notes at the end of the paperback copy I had, Bradley admits that much of the background of the narrator comes from his own life (as is often typical, particularly in a first novel) and that the fictional town of Slade is based on the real city of Denton, Texas. A city I wrote about on here before. So that was kind of cool.
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This blog belongs to Bill Elenbark.
Lover of songs. Writer of wrongs.