No one remakes bad movies. We get a hundred Jurassic World movies like the first one wasn’t flipping perfect, but the movies with promising premises that fail in the execution remain in the dustbin of history.
I want someone to remake this book.
The premise is strong and intriguing – there’s a virus of some kind that renders speech impossible to listen to. At first it’s just the voices of children that become toxic to adults, but it progresses and soon any speech renders the listener ossified. Creepy, right? And there’s a lot you can do with the world that Marcus has built in this book specifically, particularly as the protagonist has difficulty speaking with his wife, in part because they have been together long enough that they don’t necessarily need words to communicate. And even moreso with his suddenly acidic daughter, a teenager who was already bristling at her parents’ continued intrusions.
That’s an idea with a lot of metaphorical potential! ….that the author either does nothing with or does too much High Literary Art nonsense with that it’s all too oblique to make sense of. There’s a lot about a conspiracy theorist who blames the Jews for the plague, and then it turns out that he’s not just one person, but a conspiracy of many, who may also be running the counter-programming broadcasts… and I just stopped caring. It almost felt like two books, one I really wanted to read and one I couldn’t care less about.
This is the sort of book that needs a good editor to say “bro, dial it back some,” since there are about twenty ideas here and three of them good. Or, alternately, an author as gifted as Margaret Atwood to make work well. And sorry, Ben Marcus, but you’re no Margaret Atwood.