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The Silent Land
Graham Joyce
Gollancz, 256 pages

The Silent Land
Graham Joyce
Graham Joyce was born in 1954 in Coventry, England. He attended Bishop Lonsdale College (B.Ed. with honours), graduating in 1977, and the University of Leicester for an M.A. in 1980. He worked for the National Association of Youth Clubs in Leicester as a youth officer until 1988. The same year, he married Suzanne Johnson, a lawyer.

Graham Joyce Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: TWOC
SF Site Review: The Limits of Enchantment
SF Site Review: The Facts Of Life
SF Site Review: The Facts Of Life
SF Site Review: Smoking Poppy
SF Site Review: The Tooth Fairy
SF Site Review: The Tooth Fairy

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Zoe and Jake, a married couple, take to the Pyrenees slopes early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Jake shakes his hind-quarters and shouts at the mountain. Shortly thereafter, they are chased by an avalanche that swallows them.

  "The rumble became louder. There was a pillar of what looked like gray smoke unfurling in silky banners at the head of the slope, like the heraldry of snow armies. It was beautiful...." Then, under the snow, Zoe is arguing with herself: "You're under a snow tomb, be calm.

"She breathed gently. Her heart stopped banging.

"A snow tomb? You think that's good?

"...[W]hen you are calm, call for your husband. He will come.

" 'Jake!'

After a struggling to move her fingers and her joints... "Call him again. He will come.

" 'Jake!'

"You're going to die. In a snow tomb.

"She didn't even know which country she was going to die in. They were right on the mountain border between France and Spain and the local language that belonged to neither. She remembered that the Pyrenees were named for a tomb by the ancient Greeks.

"No, you're not in a tomb. You're going to get out. Call him again."


Finding a tree, Jake climbs out of the snow while Zoe, buried upside-down, has to fight for every centimeter to crawl out. When they make their way downhill, they find it strange and silent. Hence, the title of this dark fantasy The Silent Land by multiple British-Fantasy and World-Fantasy award winner, Graham Joyce. The land is empty of people and oddly quiet. If this scenario feels slightly familiar, it is, but Joyce infuses it with his own admirable style and descriptive panache.

The couple try to make their way down the mountain to civilization but find themselves in the same tourist town they just left. Gradually, however, the land becomes less and less empty. The hotel lobby fills with guests chatting amiably about the avalanche. They disappear. Jake's childhood dog appears and disappears. As does a mysterious horse pulling a cart. Men smoking cigarettes and watching the hotel appear only to Zoe. Meanwhile, Zoe finds she's pregnant, which she's not sure her husband wants.

If the novel bears any flaws, it is a middle that shows the beginnings of sagging and a married couple that rarely fights (maybe this is the same, singular flaw). But the ending makes up for that: emotionally devastating and powerful -- immensely satisfying. If you're in the mood for dark fantasy, here's one well worth grabbing.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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