From one of America's greatest writers, The Silence is a timely and compelling novel about what happens when an unpredictable crisis strikes.
It is Super Bowl Sunday in the year 2022. Five people are due to have dinner in an apartment on the east side of Manhattan. The hosts are a retired physics professor and her husband; they are joined by one of her former students and await the arrival of another couple, delayed by what becomes a dramatic flight from Paris.
In the apartment, talk ranges widely. The opening kickoff is one commercial away. Then something happens and the digital connections that have transformed our lives are severed.
What follows is a dazzling and profoundly moving conversation about what makes us human. Never has the art of fiction been such an immediate guide to our navigation of a bewildering world. Never have DeLillo’s prescience, imagination and language been more illuminating and essential.
DeLillo (Zero K) applies his mastery of dialogue to a spare, contemplative story of a group of New Yorkers and their response to a catastrophic shutdown of the world's computer systems on the night of the Super Bowl in 2022. While flying back to New York from vacation in Paris, Jim Kripps reads out the plane's altitude and speed from a screen while his poet wife, Tessa Berens, plumbs her memory for trivial facts and marvels at her ability to recover information without the assistance of a phone. Jim, an everyman whom the author describes as "nondescript," assumes the worst when the screens suddenly go blank. Their friend Max Stenner, who, with his professor wife, Diane Lucas, and her former student Martin Dekker, anticipate Jim and Tessa's arrival at their Manhattan apartment to watch the game, is deeply shaken when his own screen goes blank before halftime. Martin entertains Diane by reciting passages from Einstein's 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity, which lead to alternately profound and tepid discussions of the shutdown, the cause of which remains unexplained even after Tessa and Jim report to the group on surviving their crash landing and a ride through eerie, dark city streets. In the end, readers gain the timely insight that some were born ready for disaster while others remain unequipped. While the work stands out among DeLillo's short fiction, it feels underpowered when compared to his novels.