Thursday, 26 February 2015

Noise: Book Review

Author: Brett Garcia Rose
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 197
Originally published in: 2014

“The world is an ugly place, and I can tell you now, I fit in just fine.”

Lily is the only person Leon has ever loved. The perfect big sister, she has always been nice to him ever since he first set foot in America, and in her home. Ten years after she disappeared, only leaving behind her a suicide note, Leon receives a postcard in her hand-writing. A postcard that takes him into cold, noisy New York, looking for his long-lost sister, hoping she is still alive.
However, what Leon finds there is so unsettling that it can turn even the nicest person into a cold-blooded murderer. Leon is not that nice anyway. He is also pretty experienced with fighting as he had to defend himself on the streets of Nigeria since a very early age. One more thing: this vengeful, frightening man, is also deaf.

Firstly, the story is pretty dark and some very heavy themes are concerned. So, if you cannot stomach subjects such as rape, human trafficking, and cold-blooded murders – this is not the book for you. For the rest, however, this is a pretty exciting, fast-paced thriller that tells a story of loss and vengeance.

A great thing about the book is that it reads like an action movie, told by the main character. Leon describes all his moves, thoughts and feelings in real-time as they happen – as action unravels before his eyes, it unravels for the reader as well. So, the New York we see is a cold, heartless, ruthless one, filled with empty souls and desperation, it is “desolate, grey and quite” and its people “nudged around like house pets.” Not only is this not the glamourous city-that-never-sleeps we are used to hearing about, but it is also the symbol of everything that is wrong with Western society:

“Humanity in constant battle, all its inhabitants rushing toward some invisible exit, never tiring of the trap. Cities are hell, and New York is the Grand Dame of them all.”

To Leon, who grew up on the street of Nigeria, urban life has nothing particularly tempting to offer him – on the contrary, a place full of people, it proposes him only coldness, distance and inhumanity instead of warmth and closeness: “everyone hurrying somewhere, merging with one another on the cold wet streets. Merging, and dismissing, as only urbanites can.”

Although this might not be a terribly new concept, there is something else about it – the fact that Leon is deaf. So, what Brett Garcia Rose does is selecting the familiar concept of the big city as an emotionless, empty place, and taking it to the next level by adding a deficit to his character – the type of deficit that puts a whole new filter on the city. This is why to Leon, and subsequently to the reader, New York is quite. Leon tries to feel the noise, the noise that he can very much see, but as much as he tries that is something he could never do: “New York City, dead of winter, everyone feeling punished by lives of their own making. I try to see the noise.” Making Leon, this full of rage young man, deaf is a brilliant decision in this context – he is not disabled in the true sense of the word as he is strong, fast, skilful, and knows not only how to defend himself, but above all how to attack. The brilliance is not in this. It is in the great juxtaposition that derives from this fact – a deaf man on a killing spree in one of the noisiest places on the planet. The uproar of the city is completely muted, and instead there is silence through which you can see New York for what it is. With the cloth of silence spreading above it, it is nothing more than a graveyard of empty souls.

As I said, the novel reads like an action thriller. That is, it has a bit of a “film script” feeling to it – Leon describes everything he does in a pretty straight-forward manner making it extremely easy not only to imagine, but to actually see the whole scene. To make myself even clearer, here is an example: “Just as he’s entering the outer door to the building, I plow into his midsection and push him face-first against a concrete wall, hard enough to daze him. I yank his arm behind him and pull until he stops struggling.”

To sum up, Noise makes for a very enjoyable read even though it touches on quite dark matters. But if you do not mind getting your hands a bit dirty, you should not have a problem with the explicit content. Very fast paced, never dragging for too long, yet offering a good character development, this is a thriller that is going to keep you interested. As for the rest of its plot, you will have to read the book to find out as I do not want to spoil anything else. 


  1. That seems like a great book! Nice review. I am a little sensible thought, so will maybe wait a while until reading it! Have a nice weekend,

  2. Love the sound of this book xx

  3. Yeah, I know what you mean about waiting a bit until you read it. It's quite dark after all, I would say it is a pretty manly book too :D xx

  4. It does make for a pretty exciting read! xx