When the news turns ugly and I can't read anymore I often retreat to books. One of the books that has provided me with solace in the past month was Radio Silence. Radio Silence is an post-apocalyptic NA with diverse cast, set in Western New York. Arden, who is African American and her best friend and roommate John (Gay & Korean American) live in Rochester, NY (my current hometown). One day, with no warning an unknown event takes down the power grid and all communications devices & services. At first people are calm, waiting for some official response, for FEMA, or the Military to roll in. But no news is not good news. While at the beginning they shared their fridge food with neighbors, and joked about their shared plumbing issues, soon the post-event calm dissipated, and people started seeking refuge behind locked doors, as suspicion and paranoia spread through the community. Cries, and fearsome sounds of looters or other raiders started filling the night. Convinced that whatever has happened isn’t going to be resolved anytime soon, John and Arden pack up their remaining food stuffs and choose to hike out of Rochester and head to John’s family cabin, 100 or so miles away which they know is better provisioned and likely safer than their city apartment. They are only miles from the cabin, with Arden taking a turn at navigating when they are attacked by desperate strangers and only survive due to Gabe’s John’s brother miraculous intervention.
Gabe hauls the unconscious John to the cabin, and does what he can to make him comfortable (Gabe was an emergency room doctor). Arden is torn. She has reached the destination they were fixed on but it doesn't really feel like a safe haven, as life in the cabin is not without fear and tension. Gabe and John’s parents are missing and Gabe has been unable to track them down and keep his teenage sister Maggie safe. Gabe is relieved to have John arrive but he takes an immediate dislike of Arden, who he blames for leading John off-track which lead to him being attacked on their way to the family cabin. While John recuperates from his head injury, Arden and Gabe frequently butt heads over big and small decisions. It is clear to everyone else that Gabe and Arden’s conflicts have a strong undercurrent of unspoken attraction and sexual tension. Gabe and Arden have to resolve their feelings for each other so they can survive in the cabin’s close-quarters.
“The better I got to know him, the more I wanted him. That wasn’t usually how things worked out for me, and it was new and frightening territory”
I really liked that Arden, while head-strong & bold in lots of way, is also vulnerable. She sometimes feels like an intruder in the Seong’s home. She feels deep guilt for being on the other side of the country from her aging and ailing parents. Guilt is something Gabe and Arden have in common. Gabe feels responsible for failing to protect or find his missing parents. He is trying to do too much & carry too much to compensate. I liked how Cole developed Arden and Gabe’s relationship, from their high-tension encounters, to the gradual thawing and eventual recognition of that they can depend on each other. I really liked that neither Arden or Gabe are perfect. They misjudge each other, they screw up. Neither of them is as competent or together as they want others to think they are.
My only real criticism of the book is that I felt some of the post-apocalyptic details were only lightly sketched in. Limited as we are by Arden’s deep POV, we only know as much as she does about what is happening in the rest of the world. It chafes that we know so little about what is happening. At a certain point I just had to admit to myself that I wasn't going to get satisfactory answers to all my questions at least in this book, and had choose to read on anyway for the sake of the characters and romance, which I was enjoying immensely.
Also as a resident of Western NY, I also had to give up trying to figure out where exactly the Seong’s cabin was located, eventually deciding it must be some where up in the Adirondacks or Thousand Islands area (both areas that border Canada but not the Canadian border we first think of in this side of the state). Maybe I am completely wrong with my guess, but once I mentally settled on a location I could relax and enjoy the book.
I am very eager to read the next book in the series. The excerpt in the back was great, and I can’t wait to read about John and the man he tackles raiding their garden, especially because he seems to have some knowledge about what did happen.
It was wonderful to read a interracial romance, where both the main characters were people of color in a mainstream line. I liked that Cole didn't shy away from the racial tensions but dealt with them honestly but in a non-exploitative manner. I hope we see much more of that in the future.
A digital review copy of Radio Silence was provided by Carina Press via NetGalley.