Starting with an incredibly revealing book jacket that shames Kindle and Nook, this lucky 13th book by Graham Joyce is a startling reality wake-up call --- and it prognosticates what is to come.
A daybreak "avalanche with its ferocious white teeth had snapped at their heels." Zoe is crushed by the onslaught: "Total silence, total darkness." She resigns herself to her situation: "You're in a snow tomb, be calm." Ankles over elbows, she realizes she's upside down in that tomb. Fortunately, husband Jake comes to her rescue. With no skis, they work their way to an abandoned lift operator's cabin. With heat --- and a hip flask --- to warm them, they take the operator's single set of skis, working their way back to Saint-Bernard-en-Haut. The village is deserted, but something else seems amiss.
They return to the tiny ski village where they had first met years before: "There was something they had to sort out. Something they were meant to discuss. But she knew that right now was the wrong moment." The next day they steal a police car, the only vehicle with ignition keys. They try to get out of the village, where another avalanche looms. Fogbound and snowbound, Jake teeters the car over a precipice. Returning to the hotel, there are no TV, radio or phone signals. And --- horrors! --- no Internet connection. Attempts to leave Saint-Bernard on foot fail.
The novel's text has the simplicity and beauty of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. With deft brush strokes, Joyce paints a tapestry of intrigue and Hitchcock-like suspense, sort of a cross between Stephen King's THE LANGOLIERS and "The Twilight Zone." "It's like there's a conspiracy to keep us here," Jake ponders. Eventually they quit communicating. "When they had no banter, that meant the situation was serious," each blaming the other for their predicament. It's Jake's shocking revelation that turns eerie into just plain weird. He questions if "we're trapped here, or if we've been freed here."
Realization becomes resignation, as Zoe and Jake no longer try to leave Saint-Bernard. Something "had delivered to them an idle abundance." Zoe opines, "I'm thinking of all the stupid time-wasting things. Shopping. Bowling. Killing time. Pissing it all away. We know death is coming. And yet we always see our loved ones as taken away from us, instead of given to us for whatever time they have."
"With Nature there was always an account, and [Jake] said that ultimately they still inhabited a corner of that same infinite box that was Nature." THE SILENT LAND made me ponder how much --- or how little --- I've contributed to life. Isn't that what makes for phenomenal writing?
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy (www.DeanMurphy.net) on April 25, 2011