Noise by Darin Bradley — Abhorrent & Fascinating

One of my recent reads was Noise, by Darin Bradley.  This book got lots and lots of buzz when it came out (at least online), but it wasn’t until last month I picked it up, as my original response was ‘that sounds like I’d hate it.’

Turns out that response was correct, just not in the way I’d expected.

The book is all filtered through the perspective of one disaffected youth, with his life-long BFF at his side.  These guys grew up playing D&D, playing boffer swordfighting, and learning survival skills in scouts.  So when the digital changeover leaves a gap of frequencies that pirate broadcasters hijack to share their apocalyptic warnings, the boys listen.  They start planning, preparing, assembling their own ‘how to survive the apocalypse’ manual, a manual that assumes violence.  Not just violence to survive, but lots of violence, as a primary tool of obtaining what you want.

Noise is a book about the ways that personal mythology can be used to completely transform your thinking, and how cultural narratives and groupthink can be used to justify all sorts of horrible acts.

The book is far easier to understand just by reading it.  I found that as much as I deplored what was going on in the book, it was compellingly told, and I could imagine that there would be no small number of people who, in the event of a collapse as described (sketchily, I’ll add — either viewable as a bug in the book or a feature if you think that the main character doesn’t really care about the collapse, just the response), would go off the deep end like that.

It’s not an easy book to read, and it is not a clear condemnation or valorization of geeks, boy scouts, or anarchists.  It is, instead, a fascinating character study of how a pair of suburban boys try to transform themselves into the kind of people who can survive and thrive in an apocalypse and post-collapse world.

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