Feed Them Silence is the latest work from author Lee Mandelo. Published by TorDotCom, this novella is a ‘near-future’ piece of science fiction following the work of Doctor Sean Kell Luddon’s attempt to ‘be in kind’ with a non-human creature. In this case, they were creating a neurological link between her and one of the last remaining wild grey wolves in existence to learn more about these beasts before they are driven to extinction by climate change and other human interference. Split into four chapters, this short fiction is exceptionally compelling, and a thought-provoking read.
Through Mandelo’s protagonist, Sean, the reader follows this project to create to ‘be in kind’ with a wild wolf from its inception, the search for funding and academic support, and ultimately the results the experiment has. Although Mandelo covers a lot in just over a hundred pages, the novella flows well, and their lyrical prose engrossed me. Feed Them Silence does not just look at Dr. Kell-Luddon’s scientific research. It also focuses on the impact it has on the relationships in her life. In particular, the novella shows how her obsession is destroying the relationship with her wife, fellow academic Riya. I enjoyed the academic setting and the plausible nature of the science fiction elements to Feed Them Silence. Still, Sean’s questionable morality and the degeneration of her life away from her work would stick with me after finishing this novella.
Mandelo wrote about the erosion of Sean’s relationship in a captivating way. Early on in Feed Them Silence, I felt like Sean would be a very clear ‘bad’ character; from the first few pages, she is selfish, egotistical, and happy to ignore her wife’s ethical issues with her wolf project. But Mandelo’s characterisation is much more complex, and Sean is more than a modern take on the power-mad scientist. It was also refreshingly read as a science fiction novella with the main character as a complex queer female academic working in STEM. But the fact that Sean is not meant to be likeable meant that it was sometimes a struggle to sympathise with her at darker points in the story.
I am loathed to describe Feed Them Silence as haunting, in case it gives a ghoulish suggestion, but it is definitely a narrative I cannot shake off. I read the book over a few days (but it could easily be devoured in one sitting if a reader has the time), and even after a couple of days to collect my thoughts to write the review, I find it unsettling. As with some other near-future science fiction works, Feed Them Silence is not dystopic, but it is truly unnerving that the science fiction Mandelo shows here is probably not too far off being science fact. What that ability might mean for humanity is quite a disquieting thought.
Feed Them Silence is an excellent novella. It has a tense sci-fi narrative, captivating characters, and a moral ambiguity that should appeal to readers of Grimdark Magazine even though the novella is not typically dark.
Thank you very much to Lee Mandelo and the team at TorDotCom for sending me an ARC to be able to provide this review.