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Noise: A Novel by Darin Bradley
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Noise: A Novel (2010)

by Darin Bradley

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This is a damn fine novel. But it's not an easy novel to enjoy. Regardless your politics, your morality, your sense of community or self, you will find something to feel uncomfortable about in this book. The main characters are very hard to like, making decisions that at times seem appallingly inhuman. There are no heroes in this book. But even though we encounter plenty of antagonists, there are no real villains either. And that, ultimately, is both the most unsettling and the most brilliant aspect of this novel: In the apocalypse, there is no right or wrong but what we make, the only morality is what we construct in order to survive, and where other apocalyptic fiction often likes to present a false-anarchic free-for-all of amorality, Bradley is smart enough to show us human beings desperately trying to forge their necessary new morality. And the hardest part of reading this book, for me, was not that new morality -- a conflicted hodge-podge of anarchy and fascism, of utilitarianism and nihilism -- but how carefully, how seemingly sensibly, these characters present and live by their new morality. Some readers have complained that the main characters are heartless, one-note machines, flat stereotypes of the apocalyptic worldview present in this book, but I disagree: the background of Hiram is subtle, and of the other main characters is subtler, but it's there and it's plenty strong enough to explain the path these characters take, and Bradley, ingeniously, never judges them for it, never endorses or condemns their actions or their choices. He forces us, really, to forge our own morality as we read the book, in ways I don't see nearly often enough.

Some of the last third moves a bit fast for me (or perhaps the front third doesn't move fast enough?), so while the ending itself is excellent, I still wished there'd been another 30 or 40 pages, not because I felt like there is story missing here, but simply because Bradley had raised so many difficult questions for me and I wanted a little more time to deal with them while I read. But maybe that's the point: Hiram and Levi, for all their careful preparation, wind up necessarily facing questions they don't have time to answer, either.

Overall, a fantastic first novel, and I'm very much looking forward to Bradley's second. ( )
  Snoek-Brown | Feb 7, 2016 |
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