Darin Bradley’s Noise (2010) is a razor-sharp dagger of a novel, short, dark and ruthless. Set in the very near future, Noise is the story of Hiram and Levi, two young radicals who find their mission in an underground survivalist movement called Salvage. Salvage’s cold-hearted teachings, called The Book, are broadcast over pirated airwaves in anticipation of the imminent disintegration of civil law and order. When the day comes, the Book provides them with a brutal roadmap to survival in the post-collapse world. Adding their friends Mary and Four to the nucleus of their party, Hiram and Levi follow the dictates of The Book with machine-like efficiency, determined to establish their own brutal brand of utopia in the aftermath of western civilization.
Nothing if not thought-provoking, Noise is a lightning quick read, rapid-fire and intense. This isn’t your usual post-collapse science fiction novel; this is a mid-collapse novel, vivid and harrowing, told in a clipped, powerful voice. Its “heroes,” who pursue their aims with almost sociopathic coldness, are all the more unnerving for seeming so relatable. And there’s also something intriguingly nostalgic about the book, its events — deliberately severed from the past by the steely characters — concealing unacknowledged disappointment with how it all turned out. There’s critique here, but the target is moving: the characters themselves, the ideas that drive them, the harsh world that motivates their decisions, the mistakes of the past that led to the current state of affairs. It’s all fair game.
I’m not sure I enjoyed the novel, but I definitely respected it: a fascinating, fast-paced narrative charged with sociopolitical ideas. Striking and disturbing stuff.