A Silent Dystopia ed. D.T. Griffith
Demain Publishing, ebook, £2.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
A few years ago, I was asked to read the first book in a new series, A Quiet Apocalypse. The premise was fascinating; a new meningitis strain has swept the world, killing most of its population and stealing the hearing of the survivors. Those who can still hear, Harks, are treated as slaves for the survivors, and anyone born deaf, Harbingers, are blamed for the mutated strain and tortured and killed. I was immediately blown away by the world-building and the quality of Jeffrey’s writing. The brutality was honest, not sensational, and I was unprepared for the ending. Since then, I have also reviewed Cathedral and The Samaritan, sequels which explore the dark and dangerous rule of mob mentality and Maslov’s hierarchy of needs, each one as sinister as the first.
So, when I was asked if I was interested in reviewing an anthology set in this violent, silent world, I jumped at the chance. Excited as I was, I also harboured a small amount of concern. Jeffery’s honest writing style takes me so close to the action that I’m left an emotional wreck. Would other authors be able to create the same atmosphere?
The short answer is yes. Edited by D.T. Griffith, the nine stories selected show an intimate understanding of the dangers of Jeffrey’s world, the risks faced by survivors, whether hearing or otherwise. They flesh out the world beyond Birmingham’s Cathedral in such haunting style they are a perfect fit for this world.
J. A. Sullivan, A.S. Mackenzie and Steve Stred look at how preppers would manage in this new environment. After all, this is the sort of scenario they have prepared for. What happens to them when they start running out of food, when the isolation gets to them, when they return to a changed world without understanding what has happened? I appreciated these stories because they got to the heart of human nature where survival is concerned, and the endings were as tragic and heart-breaking as the source materials that inspired them.
Stephanie Ellie, Morgan K. Tanner and David Youngquist take us into the heart of the atrocities by using Harks hiding among the MG-U hearing impaired as their protagonists. Tanner’s was particularly challenging as Jack wrestles self-preservation against his own moral compass. We live Jack’s inner torment as he can hear the pitiful cries of his gang’s victims, but he is powerless to help, or the next victim will be him.
While a lot of the stories are dark as befitting The Quiet Apocalypse Universe, there are a couple that ends with hope. The Platform by John Palisano follows oil rig workers who have a Hark among them, a young man who can hear, and they treat him the same as everyone else. They make a stand against the majority, making the story a refreshing change, especially after reading Morgan K. Tanner’s In the Midst of Monsters.
The final story of the collection is by Tom Jeffery and Dave Jeffery, the creator of this universe, charting the first early days of Cathedral. Here, we see the Prefect in action. The most dangerous character in the series, the Prefect, controls Cathedral’s inhabitants, meeting their basic needs of warmth, food, shelter, and sex, but keeping them isolated by preventing monogamous relationships and providing an outlet for their rage and grief. But when we meet him in Cathedral, he is already in control. The First Samaritan: A Quiet Apocalypse Origin Story shows how the Prefect rose to his position within the society and turned a group of sad, shocked survivors into a blood-thirsty gang, capable of committing the worst acts a person can do to another.
This anthology has done two things for me. The first is to introduce me to new authors to watch out for. Every story in this collection scream quality and are more than worthy of their inclusion. Some will haunt me for a long time, such as Steve Stred’s Do You Remember and A.S. Mackensie’s Shut Up, Donny. The second is to whet my appetite for the fourth book in the series, Tribunal, which is due out later. A Quiet Apocalypse is a must for anyone who has already visited this universe, and it is also an excellent entry for those of you who haven’t.