Feed Them Silence
by Lee Mandelo
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Pub Date 14 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 30 Mar 2023
Lee Mandelo dives into the minds of wolves in Feed Them Silence, a novella of the near future.
What does it mean to "be-in-kind" with a nonhuman animal? Or in Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon’s case, to be in-kind with one of the last remaining wild wolves? Using a neurological interface to translate her animal subject’s perception through her own mind, Sean intends to chase both her scientific curiosity and her secret, lifelong desire to experience the intimacy and freedom of wolfishness. To see the world through animal eyes; smell the forest, thick with olfactory messages; even taste the blood and viscera of a fresh kill. And, above all, to feel the belonging of the pack.
Sean’s tireless research gives her a chance to fulfill that dream, but pursuing it has a terrible cost. Her obsession with work endangers her fraying relationship with her wife. Her research methods threaten her mind and body. And the attention of her VC funders could destroy her subject, the beautiful wild wolf whose mental world she’s invading.
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Average rating from 67 members
Lee Mandelo’s debut, Summer Sons, immediately launched him to my auto-read/buy list and when Feed Them Silence was first announced, I was so incredibly excited. Academia devolving to madness at the detriment of everything else in your life paired with Mandelo’s uniquely evocative wordplay is so absolutely my genre of book that I couldn’t not love this.
Word on the street (Twitter) says this book has rancid vibes. Naturally in my mind, rancid == erotic horror. Do not make the same mistake as me. While the (kinda) wolf-fucking is there, it is (tragically) brief. Instead, rancid in this case means you will be stuck with a lot of sad and unpleasant thoughts upon finishing this book, contemplating if you, too, are somehow ruining close partnerships, your career, and all other friendships in the pursuit of the unachievable dreams. Because damn this book takes you places you’re definitely not prepared to go and it does not let up.
Mandelo spends a line dissing roboticists, so in defense of my profession, I feel obligated to point out that the communications range implanted in a wolf allowed to roam in the wild(!!) and the capacity of data it is able to transmit seems very sus. But that’s okay, because this story is really about losing everything and everyone else around you.
Really, the moral of this story is to stick with government funding. Don’t be fooled by the allure of corporate money.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. Feed Them Silence has everything I love about the dark academia genre in watching that slippery slope of bad decisions in the name of research while slowly watching relationships around you go wrong. This book will make you feel many many things.
This novella packs a mighty punch. Mandelo is able to examine so many themes about human nature. This book is dark but also extremely insightful.
It’s pretty astonishing how much Lee Mandelo managed to fit into 112 pages.
In this near future book, Sean leads a privately funded research project where she can neurally interface with one of the last remaining wild wolves. While Sean dives wholly into her work, she further strains her already struggling relationship with her wife.
A college professor once told me that all the best philosophy happens in speculative fiction now, and this is a perfect example of that. In many ways, this is a treatise on capitalism, conservation, empathy and selfishness. And yet, it’s still very accessible and readable. It moved quickly but packs an emotional punch.
This is going to sound awful, but I’m not really an animal person. Often, I find books with animals as primary characters boring: I just can't get into them. But this held my interest the whole time.
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor!
[Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC from netgalley and the publisher in exchange of an honest review]
So, after reading this in less than 24 hours, I needed some time to gather my thoughts 'cause: What. A. Ride. I think Lee Mandelo has become a favorite of mine with just this book (I still have to read their other: Summer Sons, but I have a feeling it's quite as good👌)
So, in FTS, a bit into the future from nowadays, we meet Sean and her crew, investigating and developing a, if successful, revolutionary invention that will allow people to connect with wolves, mentally (and, maybe, with time, others animals), to know how they think and process things differently to humans. Of course, it doesn't go 100% as expected.
First, I want to talk about Sean, the lead. I loved and hated her on equal parts. But, it also seems like that was the idea: to have a character to like on some parts, but also dislike her for how she attached herself so emotionally to the project and to the wolf, Kate, that Sean ended up neglecting her human relationships, moreover with her wife, with who she ends up on a very precarious place at the end, understandable taking into account everything they went through.
Second, Sean and Kate, but most importantly, everything surrounding the pack of wolves, who are the last one of the zone, and the future that they may or may not have. It's explained why Sean does this [her relationship with Kate] and what she wants to achieve and the good she thinks it will do, but she stills forces the wolf to be mentally bonded to her. And that is going to affect them both, wether she likes it or not. Sean invests herself so much in Kate's life that she can't stand being away from her in the end and tries to help even if she is not welcome among the wolves 'cause they don't really know her, not matter what Sean has come to think and feel from all the experimenting on both herself and Kate. So, does the (possibly good, possibly bad) end justify the means? In the end, the project is cancelled, Sean doesn't know where she stands with her wife because of how much she has neglects their relationship, so I'll let you juge that.
Also, the commentary that I've been seeing in some sci-fi works (not only books) and that I share and think we should listen to more: how these types of kinda futuristic technology that could develop given the circumstances and that we often see in works like Mandelo's, and how they're not bad per se, or really hurting others (though, that part is very ambiguous; in FTS, even if Sean is not actively 'hurting' Kate, is later shown that the technology that bonded them mentally was changing their brains, so), some corporations will always try to get benefit, economical benefits, from it and sell it as they want with their own porpuses instead of the originals. In FTS, even if it's quite shady, Sean is trying to do some good, but the corporation that, privately, provided them with the needed money for the project, lately said they wanted more for it.
To sum up, and without the previous spoilers, in a fast paced but full of emotional moments and explanations for the 'sciency' part (which I loved), FDS practically tells us rule zero: don't invest yourself emotionally in a project. Okey, no, I'm half joking there. It really shows us how toxic a scientific environment could get when obsession enters the board and how a kinda good action can take a very wrong turn at any moment no matter what you do. If you read this book, I hope you like it just us much as me!
A novella about having a neural link into the mind of a wolf? I couldn't wait to read this. As a sci-fi, popular science, and nature literature reader this had the potential to majorly disappoint, but it solidly did not. The developing connection between the researcher and the wolf was well thought out and clearly based in trying to understand wolf and pack behavior. The building emotional connection and the tension of 'how far will this go' kept me running back to the book with every free minute. The underlying story of the researcher and her wife's marital problems provide contrast to the building relationship with the wolf and the research team. This story/plot was perfect for the novella length. Be warned, the researcher is not a likeable character in many respects. But her connection to the wolf is so well written, you empathize with her as she empathizes with the wolf. I will be recommending this to sci-fi readers and those interested in nature writing, animal behavior, and popular psychology. If you have a reader that is particularly sensitive to animals being harmed, they may want to avoid this title. Nothing out of the ordinary for wolf behavior, but they are carnivores.
Thanks a lot for the ARC!
This was such an absolute SLAY of a book and such a textured, rich read. The prose is FANTASTIC. I have nothing but top notch compliments and praise for it!
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing an arc in exchange for an honest review.
Feed Them Silence releases March 14/2023
“What did it mean, to make history?”
The premise of this was so intriguing. I think everyone at one point has given thought to what it would be like to truly communicate with non-human animals on the same wavelength, or even embody living life from their perspective.
In Feed Them Silence — Dr. Sean Kell-Luddon neurologically connects with one of the last remaining wild wolves.
Not only was this focused on the scientific research of wolves, but it also incorporated home-life-marriage dynamics, which I really liked.
Lines blurred between seeking connection from immediate loved ones, or from another species altogether, as well as the ethics of the whole situation.
The counter arguments made by Sean’s wife, Riya, held a lot of weight, and I loved the introspective thoughts that their characters brought to the plot.
The parasocial relationship between Sean and Kate, the wolf, was one of the most interesting things I’ve read. In my eyes, it was inevitable for them to form a more than surface level connection and chemical change that quickly reached out of bounds of what the funders of this research project intended.
“You’re chasing another creature to give you the intimacy you’re craving, a being that can’t reciprocate your desire the way Riya can and has.”
For a novella, this was very well rounded and packed a punch.
The ending leaves for a lot of reflection.
I think this would translate well to screen!
- sci-fi novella
- interracial F/F marriage
- they/them pronouns
- set in 2031
- does include cheating
Have you ever wanted to watch someone ruin their own life?
Feed Them Silence was a book I could not put down, though I desperately wanted to. It’s so well written, compelling, bleak. In fewer than 125 pages, Lee Mandelo put me through the wringer. The backbone of the book is a near future, science-y premise, but really the story is one of watching someone self-immolate and wondering how easily that could be…me.
To begin with, Sean sucks. In a novella, a character doesn’t get to be that many versions of themselves, and so…this version of Sean is one that would not pass muster in an AITA post on Reddit. She has a massive case of Main Character Syndrome (leaving out that she is, you know, the main character), and she acknowledges no one outside of what they can do for her.
And although I want to believe I’d be better than her, there’s a lot I recognize in these pages. Marriage inter-twined with ambition and ego. Losing yourself in a job or a hobby, finding yourself needing it to escape from a painful reality, and the closed loop created thereby. Convincing yourself the thing that YOU want is the Right Thing, and you definitely aren’t being selfish or behaving poorly right now.
Up until the very last page, I couldn’t guess how it would end. I didn’t WANT there to be an easy ending for Sean, who I both empathized with and wanted to strangle the entire time. Without spoilers, I’ll just say that if I knew Sean in real life, I would just slowly stop responding to her text messages and float away from her.
I definitely recommend this book. I can’t think of another recent story that I enjoyed reading so much, while so thoroughly disliking all the things it made me feel.
(Thanks to NetGalley and Tordotcom for a free copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.)
Lee Mandelo's Feed Them Silence is a near-future novella set nearly entirely in two places: the lab, where researchers lead by our main character, an academic, study the behavior of wolves from a new perspective, inside of a wolf's mind transmitted to our main character through a technological implant and translated through her understanding, and in the home of our main character, where she (a butch white woman) lives with her wife (a woman of color, also in academia) as their marriage crumbles.
In this short book, Mandelo spans many topics: climate change and nature, academic observation vs .obstruction/intervention, marriage and gender roles in the home, domestication vs. wildness, connection and loneliness. He handles each topic with immense sensitivity and grace. Even where his characters are unlikeable, and the main character here is, he deftly and compassionately guides you through their thinking and understanding. I found this book to be thought-provoking on all fronts -- making me think deeply about nature and our connection to it, about love and the bonds we choose.
If this book has a major fault, in my opinion, it is that it was not longer. The shorter form is poignant, but the topics within and the narrative felt like they could have been expanded upon even more without losing what made this book great. I loved it.
Mandelo’s skill at writing embodiment is showcased in Feed Them Silence, with the viscera of human and animal experience laid raw and reaching. Same as with his first book, many scenes are crafted so vividly they feel like memories that I won't be able to shake for too long. At the risk of comparing two very different books, I want to note that I loved how distinctly different the introspection of this main character felt from their last book; the clarity, even when self-deluding, of Sean's inner voice is a delight to suffer alongside and establishes a maturity without skirting past her younger drives.
If you're not a frequent novella reader because you find it hard to connect with characters in such a short space, you likely won't have that problem here — Mandelo has deftly fleshed out main and side characters using small, unique gestures that were simple yet moving. Sean’s relationship conflict with her wife Riya was so deeply painful to watch play out and so well-crafted; so much of their dialogue will be a relable gut-punch for readers in longer-term relationships. The line “as if the pair of them were each acting the life they’d rather be living, for the sake of a minute’s respite” left me feeling a bleak sort of evisceration.
It feels necessary to comment on parasocial relationships and narcissism as they're the heart of this narrative, but I think I'd rather everyone reading this review just pick up the book and hear what Mandelo’s saying. Doubtless other reviewers will also cover this ground too, so I'll only add: so thoughtful, pointed, and well-crafted.
Mild, vague spoiler ahead:
My only note was a really bleak and rough event at the end was skated past quite quickly, which I believe was on purpose because the true emotional crush was Sean’s decision of what to do afterward. I'd be even more wrecked after reading what that scene -could- have looked like so thanks Mandelo, and also, emphatically, ow.
Feed Them Silence is one hell of a read. Bringing work-life balance to the center in this sci-fi tale about a scientist of dubious ethics researching one of the last packs of wild wolves, Feed Them Silence blurs the lines between animal and human and what's objective and subjective. It's a study in loneliness, and all the placebos for true connections technology lets us explore. Watching Sean continue to make one bad decision after another in her personal and professional life was a transgressive delight. Trust me, this book is going to live in your head rent-free well after reading the final page.
Thank you, Tor/Forge, for allowing me to read Feed Them Silence early.
Summer Sons is one of my most favorite reads, so of course I wanted to read Feed Them Silence badly. The story is way different from Summer Sons, but boy, oh boy, did I enjoy myself. I just read it in one sitting until late night. Can't wait to buy a copy!
I hadn't read anything by Lee Mandelo before but I really enjoy scifi books, and this book had a great description. After reading this I will be checking out other books from Lee Mandelo. This was wonderfully written and it had a great scifi feel to it. I love when science goes over the line and I was invested in what was happening in the book and to the characters. It was so well done I was looking for more in this universe.
"On her laptop screen, gusts of wind blew the snow in a swirling dance. Sean bent to grab her journals from the floor. She missed the passage of a gaunt creature through the border trees—the flash of its stare catching the moonlight, floating like a starving ghost."
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