Penguin (US, UK, CA: 10th November 2015; AU: 12th November 2015)
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NOTE: Throughout the book, the word is presented as “deaf”. In real life, I’ve also seen it as “Deaf” and “d/Deaf”. This review goes along with the novel, because that’s what I discuss.
Soundless is a standalone, and has a beautiful cover – the best art of any of the author’s books. It’s fewer than 300 pages, a quick read. Though I’ve seen mention of an embargo, Amazon Vine reviews were up before the novel’s publication, so the publisher gave a good push. The story involves Chinese folklore and deaf characters. Everything in this paragraph is a drawcard.
We begin at the top of a mountain, in a village full of people who’ve been deaf for generations, though ancestors were once hearing. Fei has been deaf all her life – until now.
It’s in the blurb (Australian edition), so it’s not a spoiler: Sound becomes her weapon.
And so one of the novel’s drawcards…withdraws. This is not a story with a heroine who’s deaf. This is a story with a heroine who’s originally deaf, but then mysteriously acquires full hearing overnight without any science or technology involved. She remains hearing without aids for the rest of the book.
So what does this mean? Would this story be possible if Fei had remained deaf forever? Hearing rocks fall saves her life, as does hearing other danger before it arrives. Had she not been able to hear, what would it have taken for Fei to investigate how to save her fellow villagers?
This isn’t as much of a story about a deaf person as it is about a hearing person.
Maybe I expected a feel-good story about a deaf person having adventures and saving the future. That could explain my somewhat disappointment that the novel’s about a hearing person having adventures and saving the future.
I look forward to reading marginalised people’s (deaf and/or Chinese) views on Soundless. Maybe I need further context to fully understand the novel, because as it is I’m kind of side-eying the story.
But even before I truly considered the book’s concept, my interest was fading. If you’re already skimming by Chapter 2, instead of properly reading, things aren’t great. It only really grabbed me from about page 200, so a case of too little too late. The scenery is breathtaking, and I’d love to learn more about the Chinese folklore that inspired Soundless. But I couldn’t stay focused and interested the entire time.