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Signal to Noise Paperback – February 10, 2015
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"Refreshing, lively and unique, Moreno-Garcia's debut novel is a triumph." - RT Book Reviews
I know it's very early in the year but I can already tell this is one of the Notable Reads of 2015. - Kirkus
"Haunting and beautifully nuanced, Signal to Noise is a magical first novel." - The Guardian
"Plenty of books use magic to talk about coming-of-age stories and the secrets that people bury... but few of them are as sad, or as evocative, as Silvia Moreno-Garcia's new novel Signal to Noise." - io9
About the Author
Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination, Silvia Moreno-Garcia's collection This Strange Way of Dying was a finalist for The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Signal to Noise, about magic, music and Mexico City, is her debut novel. She tweets @silviamg and blogs at silviamoreno-garcia.com.
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The jacket copy tells you what you need to know about the story and its interlocking timelines in the late 1980s and 2009. What struck me most about this tale of music and magic was Moreno-Garcia's own ability to conjure. I have never been to Mexico City, yet somehow, in prose that is almost spare and never purple, she pulled off the trick of making the place seem simultaneously familiar and new. Familiar in the sense that I easily experienced it as her characters do, as the landscape of home and school and everyday life, and new in the sense that the environment felt fresh, unused-up by layers of other stories, a place where anything could happen, and where the music I listened to in 1989 bumped up against Mexican music I'd never heard but felt, from context, that I understood. (I loved the evocation of the physical aspects of music in the late 80s: albums, a Walkman. I still have a drawer full of mix-tapes from that era.)
Something similar happens with the characters. As teenagers who are outsiders and yearn to be insiders, they navigate the familiar terrain of the coming-of-age story, realized with pitch-perfect accuracy; at the same time, they discover and are forever changed by something marvelous and unique. Although we experience several points of view, the main character, and the heart of the story, is Meche. She is smart, obsessed with music, struggling with family and feelings, crackling with energy. She is also, at times, vengeful, mean, and manipulative. A complex character, in short, and one whose fate mattered to me. Some of my favorite parts of the book were the conversations of Meche and her two friends when they were just hanging out: these exchanges were seemingly aimless, always revealing, often funny. Like teenagers.
SIGNAL TO NOISE is not epic or world-spanning. It's the story of a handful of people, a wild magic, and the unpredictable alchemy of time. Moreno-Garcia tells that story beautifully.
This book was steady paced and well written. It flowed well and kept my attention. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.