The silent epidemic began in the year 2011. Children around the world were born without the ability to learn language. They didn’t babble as babies. They didn’t speak as they grew older. They couldn’t understand what their parents were saying. They seemed to show no interest in using language at all. Parents became frustrated, trying every obscure teaching method and advertised miracle cure. Scientists were baffled. There was no virus, no environmental toxin they could pinpoint as the cause of the disorder. As years went by, hope for a cure dwindled, but it became obvious that there was something more to the silents, something everyone had failed to notice.
This is the premise of a new, serialized digital novel, The Silent History, by Kevin Moffett, Matthew Derby, Russell Quinn and Eli Horowitz. Fans of puzzle hunt books might recognize Horowitz as one of the authors of The Clock Without a Face, a children’s book filled with hidden clues that led to real-world buried treasures.
While The Silent History doesn’t have cryptic clues or buried jewels, it does encourage readers to explore the story in several new and exciting ways. The creators, who designed and released The Silent History as an iOS app, are calling it “a new kind of novel”. Initially, the app offers video and text that introduce the reader to the story world. There are then two different experiences a reader can choose to explore: the time-released Testimonials, or the location-based Field Reports.
The Testimonials are first-person accounts told by the family, friends and others close to the silents. Theodore Green describes his life as a single father, seemingly obsessed with getting his daughter, Flora, to speak. Margaret Lafferty doesn’t trust the silents, and thinks they are destined for trouble. Nancy Jernik, a successful business woman, is irritated by her young son’s lack of communication and begins ignoring him completely.
The Testimonials work together to tell the history of the silents from when they were first discovered until the year 2043. While one might think it hard to keep track of the more than twenty characters over a period of 32 years, it is surprisingly not difficult thanks to the app’s user interface and the way the characters’ stories start to converge and overlap. Each Testimonial is approximately 1,500 words and, when all are released, will add up to the equivalent of a 500 page novel.
The Field Reports are location-based stories that expand The Silent History‘s universe. These are unlocked when the reader is within 10 meters of the Field Report’s GPS coordinates. These unlocked stories use real world details found at the physical coordinates to enhance the reader experience. For example, one of the Chicago-area stories about boarding an airplane can only be unlocked at O’Hare airport. As of this writing, there are nearly 250 Field Reports across the globe (including one in Antarctica), but the authors encourage readers to become reporters and submit their own Field Reports.
The Silent History app can be downloaded for $1.99 in the App Store and includes access to the first volume, which contains 20 Testimonials. The remaining five volumes can be purchased separately or in a $7.99 bundle.