Book Review: Vow of Silence By Robert Laughlin
In an alternate universe, Karlan escapes the drudgery of his family’s farm by moving to the nation’s capital when it is discovered he is one of the few possessing a memory strong enough to join an elite group known as Datists. Datists, utilizing memory techniques, are responsible for all knowledge in this society that has not discovered writing. All goes well until he is assigned a specialty that wreaks havoc on his humanity.
When I first started reading this book, I was immediately struck by how much the story-telling style reminded me of European literature in the 19th century. Less action-oriented, it is much more prone toward introspection, like Frankenstein or Dracula. I enjoy this writing style as much as I enjoy the more modern style, so it was nice to see this in a new novel.
Laughlin does an excellent job of making the reader sympathize with someone who goes on to essentially lose his humanity. He turns Karlan into a monster, yet the reader, instead of being horrified, understands why Karlan does what he does. Making your main character an anti-hero is difficult to pull off, but when done well goes far in making the reader ponder things she might not have otherwise.
I also was surprised and appreciative of the fact that Laughlin gives Karlan a chance to win back his humanity, ironically by causing a revolution by not doing anything. Even though Karlan is left essentially alone and broken, he gets to see the revolution he helped cause transform his oppressive society into an engaging one.
Unfortunately, Laughlin’s writing style is not entirely consistent throughout. Some passages are more engaging than others. While most of the book flows well, parts of it drag. This is Laughlin’s first book, however, so hopefully this will improve with time.
Vow of Silence is published by an indie publisher, Trytium Publishing. This is not the same as being self-published. Laughlin still had to sell his story to them and standard contracts are still involved, but it does mean that they don’t have as many resources as mainstream publishers. This means that the binding isn’t as strong in the book, and the type-set is a bit odd. However, I doubt that a mainstream publisher would have given this work a chance, and it is a great story. I encourage you to buy a copy and support indie publishing if you are interested in reading the book.
4 out of 5 stars