Cover Image: The Quiet Zone

The Quiet Zone

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Member Reviews

This book was we'll written. I didn't expect so many tangents into different social movements, political pork,  and neo Nazis but the book was able to tie everything together. I also liked how the author was relatable and included his beliefs, doubts, and scepticism. I'd always just believed news reports of a dead zone town so it was fascinating to read how the town isn't just stuck in a time warp.
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There's a small town in Appalachia where cell phones are banned. WiFi is against the rules. Even radios, light bulbs, and car electronics are policed. It's the very definition of being "off the grid." At least, that's how it's supposed to be in Green Bank, West Virginia. It's located in the National Radio Quiet Zone, due to the presence of a giant radio telescope in the town. Scientists are literally listening to the universe with it, but the signals from cell phones, microwaves, and other common electronics disturb the research. As part of the Quiet Zone, technically cell phones and WiFi are against the rules for area residents. But, how do you regulate that?

The Quiet Zone is more than a book about the town with a telescope. Author Stephen Kurczy examines what drives people to - and from - Green Bank. The nearest Walmart is hours away. The town convenience store boasts that if they don't sell it, you don't need it. Some see it as a way to escape the connected life. After all, no cell phone means not getting work emails or calls past 5 p.m., not having to tell the kids to put their phones away during family meals, and an escape from the "noise" of connected, city life. Some people believe they're "electrosensitive" - meaning they have medical issues caused by exposure to certain light bulbs, WiFi signals, and more. Green Bank is an escape for them. Or is it?

Why is the town also a sort of safe haven for the white nationalist movement? Why is it so hard to get medical care? What does the area's most famous resident, Dr. "Patch" Adams - portrayed by Robin Williams in a feature film - say about that? He's been collecting millions of dollars in donations to build a free hospital for years. But where's the hospital? (Spoiler alert: "Patch" Adams is a fraudster and a dick.) How does the town newspaper stay connected to the town when there aren't supposed to be any ways to stay connected?

This work on non-fiction really examines what it means to be a "quiet zone" and what it means when all the local teens are still carrying iPhones to class. The neo-Nazi movement has a presence in a town that's supposed to be disconnected from ways to be monitored by the authorities.

I found this book fascinating. Even though I'd never want to live in a place as remote as Green Bank, I'm interested in people who do want a life like that, and the rationale behind that desire. Journalist Kurczy immersed himself in the town for years, making many trips between his home in New York City and the isolated Appalachian town. I was immersed in the people who believe the wrong type of light bulb can make them medically ill, and the white nationalists exploring local underground tunnels. I highly recommend this to anyone who wonders what life would be like without 24/7 connectivity, and to anyone who is glad they have that ability to stay in touch and stay connected constantly.
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