Set in 2022, Jim and Tess are in a plane bound for New York to visit friends, Max and Diane, to watch the Super Bowl on television. Meanwhile Max, Diane and Martin (a student of Diane’s) wait for them to arrive. Suddenly the television transmission stops. The phones are dead, and electricity is cut. When Jim and Tess finally arrive, they explain that they are late because of a mid-air incident which downed the plane. The conversations become more and more disconnected as they ruminate on the possible causes of the disruption.
“Didn’t this have to happen? Isn’t that what some of us are thinking? We were headed in this direction.”
“Cyber attacks, digital intrusions,, biological aggressions, smallpox, terrorism, financial collapse, dead, disabled, starvation, plague, and what else?”
“What happens to people who live inside their phones.”
“I can tell you this. Whatever is going on, it has crushed our technology. The word itself seems outdated to me, lost in space. Where is the leap of authority to our secure devices, our encryption capacities, our tweets, trolls and bots. Is everything in the datasphere subject to distortion and theft? And do we simply have to sit here and mourn our fate?”
“Nobody wants to call it World War III, but this is what it is.”
This novella, at only 117 pages, does not appeal to me. And yet, it does make a point – that we have become so reliant on digital technology that it’s absence would be disastrous. This book just didn’t pack the punch that I was expecting, and I didn’t feel enough interest in what seems to be a cataclysmic event.
Kirkus: “This is a small but vivid book, and in its evocation of people in the throes of social crisis, it feels deeply resonant.”
The New York Times: “The good news about “The Silence” is that it’s engrossing and that, at 83, DeLillo’s syntax is as prickly as ever. I’m as attracted as anyone else to stories of doomed airplane flights and intimations of the end of the world, and DeLillo mostly held me rapt. I was never sorry to be holding this novel. The bad news, … is that “The Silence” reads like the first two chapters of a disaster novel. At 117 pages, it’s over before it gets started.”