The Silent by Jack Dann

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From the critically acclaimed author of The Memory Cathedral comes perhaps the most powerful, haunting, and unforgettable novel of the Civil War--or any war--ever written. Provocative, poetic, and disturbing, it introduces us to a young narrator, Mundy McDowell, whose voice rivals any in literature, bringing poignantly to life the surreal horrors of battle and its spiritual cost to human survival.

I was scarce twelve the day the damn Yankees invaded the valley. I seen a lot that day I ain't never gonna forget.

Men blown apart, screamin' and dyin' all around me. I was wandering in the woods like I wasn't supposed to and wound up right in the middle of the battle. And that's what I suppose saved me.

When I got back home the main house was burning to the ground. I saw two men wearin' bits and pieces of 'Federate and Yank uniforms. They killed Poppa right off, and Mother they dragged into the front yard before they killed her too. I reckon that was the day I first got the knack of being invisible.

The spirit dog seen me right off, though. He was big and black and smelled like burning. His eyes were like red coals and everywhere he went, it seemed death followed. Him and me, we mostly traveled together after that.

I passed through midnight fields of dead and dying soldiers, reeking makeshift field hospitals worse than hell itself; climbed into the mountains where the runaway slaves hid; and walked through towns shattered by the passage of the war.

I met a lot of people, some of them living and some of them just memories. There was Jimmadasin, the slave who died on my account, and Mammy Jack, who taught me to see visions; the gallant Colonel Ashby, who let me ride by his side, and, of course, the mulatto whore Lucy, who saved my life twice.

Last but not least, there was mad but brilliant General Jackson, who was probably responsible for putting more men in their graves than any other during the Shenandoah campaign. Whether he was a hero or a demon I never did determine, but I wish I had never met him at all.

And through it all I remained silent. The power of speech left me the day my parents were killed and I first saw the spirit dog. You see, the whole time I was wandering through that valley of death I was deciding on whether to go back to being human or to become a spirit myself, and that's what this book is all about.

About Jack Dann

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Jack Dann is a multiple award winning author who has written or edited over 60 books, including the groundbreaking novels Junction, Starhiker, The Man Who Melted, The Memory Cathedral -- which is an international bestseller, the Civil War novel The Silent, and Bad Medicine, which has been compared to the works of Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson and called "the best road novel since the Easy Rider days." Dann's work has been compared to Jorge Luis Borges, Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, Castaneda, J. G. Ballard, Mark Twain, and Philip K. Dick. Philip K. Dick, author of the stories from which the films Blade Runner and Total Recall were made, wrote that "Junction is where Ursula Le Guin's Lathe of Heaven and Tony Boucher's 'The Quest for Saint Aquin' meet...and yet it's an entirely new novel.... I may very well be basing some of my future work on Junction." Best-selling author Marion Zimmer Bradley called Starhiker "a superb book... it will not give up all its delights, all its perfections, on one reading." Library Journal has called Dann "...a true poet who can create pictures with a few perfect words." Roger Zelazny thought he was a reality magician and Best Sellers has said that "Jack Dann is a mind-warlock whose magicks will confound, disorient, shock, and delight." The Washington Post Book World compared his novel The Man Who Melted with Ingmar Bergman's film The Seventh Seal. His short stories have appeared in Omni and Playboy and other major magazines and anthologies. He is the editor of the anthology Wandering Stars, one of the most acclaimed American anthologies of the 1970's, and several other well-known anthologies such as More Wandering Stars. Wandering Stars and More Wandering Stars have just been reprinted in the U.S. Dann also edits the multi-volume Magic Tales series with Gardner Dozois and is a consulting editor TOR Books. He is a recipient of the Nebula Award, the Australian Aurealis Award (twice), the Ditmar Award (three times), the World Fantasy Award, and the Premios GilgamÉs de Narrativa Fantastica award. Dann has also been honoured by the Mark Twain Society (Esteemed Knight). High Steel, a novel co-authored with Jack C. Haldeman II, was published in 1993. Critic John Clute called it "a predator...a cat with blazing eyes gorging on the good meat of genre. It is most highly recommended." A sequel entitled Ghost Dance is in progress. Dann's major historical novel about Leonardo da Vinci -- entitled The Memory Cathedral -- was first published in December 1995 to rave reviews. It has been published in 10 languages to date. It won the Australian Aurealis Award in 1997, was #1 on The Age bestseller list, and a story based on the novel was awarded the Nebula Award. The Memory Cathedral was also shortlisted for the Audio Book of the Year, which was part of the 1998 Braille & Talking Book Library Awards. Morgan Llwelyn called The Memory Cathedral "a book to cherish, a validation of the novelist's art and fully worthy of its extraordinary subject." The San Francisco Chronicle called it "a grand accomplishment," Kirkus Reviews thought it was "An impressive accomplishment," and True Review said, "Read this important novel, be challenged by it; you literally haven't seen anything like it." Dann's next novel The Silent was chosen by Library Journal as one of their 'Hot Picks.' Library Journal wrote: "This is narrative storytelling at its best -- so highly charged emotionally as to constitute a kind of poetry from hell. Most emphatically recommended." Auhor Peter Straub said, "This tale of America's greatest trauma is full of mystery, wonder, and the kind of narrative inventiveness that makes other novelists want to hide under the bed." And The Australian called it "an extraordinary achievement." His contemporary road novel Bad Medicine (titled Counting Coup in the U.S.) has been called "a vivid and compelling vision-quest through the dark back roads and blue highways of the American soul." Dann is also the co-editor (with Janeen Webb) of the groundbreaking Australian anthology Dreaming Down-Under, which Peter Goldsworthy has called "the biggest, boldest, most controversial collection of original fiction ever published in Australia." It has won Australia's Ditmar Award and is the first Australian book ever to win the prestigious World Fantasy Award. Dann is also the author of the retrospective short story collection Jubilee: the Essential Jack Dann. The West Australian said it was "Sometimes frightening, sometimes funny, erudite, inventive, beautifully written and always intriguing. Jubilee is a celebration of the talent of a remarkable storyteller." As part of its Bibliographies of Modern Authors Series, The Borgo Press has published an annotated bibliography and guide entitled The Work of Jack Dann. An updated second edition is in progress. Dann is also listed in Contemporary Authors and the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series; The International Authors and Writers Who's Who; Personalities of America; Men of Achievement; Who's Who in Writers, Editors, and Poets, United States and Canada; Dictionary of International Biography; the Directory of Distinguished Americans; Outstanding Writers of the 20th Century; and Who's Who in the World. Dann commutes between Melbourne and a farm overlooking the sea. He also 'commutes' back and forth to Los Angeles and New York.
Published January 1, 1998 by Flamingo. 304 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, War. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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His gruesome chronicle of the suffering of 14-year-old Edmund McDowell, caught up in the efforts of —Stonewall— Jackson to defeat a Federal Army in 1862, is clearly intended to remind us that the Civil War was as brutal as any other war.

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Publishers Weekly

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After seeing his mother raped, both his parents murdered and his home burned by Yankee marauders on March 23, 1862, the boy retreats into speechlessness and a cloak of imagined invisibility, wandering for 75 days in a mute post-traumatic stupor through the battles ranging around Winchester, Va.

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SF Site

Jack Dann's book is instead an after-the-fact journal written by the main character, Edmund McDowell, a teenager in 1862.

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