Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published: Solaris (Feb 10, 2015)
Original Post: Edge, Goodreads, Medium (Nov 23, 2016)
(5 / 5)
“In a minute there is time for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.” – TS Eliot
“Why can’t music be magic? Aren’t spells just words you repeat? And what are songs? Lyrics that play over and over again. The words are like a formula.” – Signal to Noise
Signal to Noise explores music and magic in a story that bridges two decades. Through the turbulence of youth to the uncertainties of adulthood, the novel blends modern fantasy and romance into a captivating tale. It’s also an extremely genuine portrayal of life’s ups and downs through the course of a lifetime.
Set to tune of love, loss, and friendship, the novel’s focal point is the life of a deeply conflicted woman named Meche (Mercedes Vega). The story is split into two time periods of her life. The modern setting occurs in 2009 when, upon returning to her home of Mexico City under tragic circumstances, Meche is forced to confront her dark past and feelings of abandonment. The unasked question: what happened to Meche all those years ago? And, is there a way to fix it?
The novel’s primary time period takes place between 1988 and 1989 in Mexico City during Meche’s teenage years. Meche is an outsider with a strained home life. Like many teens, she just doesn’t fit in with other high school students. She has three friends, a sickly girl named Daniela, a close BFF named Sebastian, and her music. Songs supplement her life, and melody gives order to chaos.
Then there’s the magic.
As if roused by a snake charmer’s song, magic worms itself into the lives of the friends. It latches onto their despair and provides them with a powerful crutch. Through witchery, the group embarks on helping each other fulfill their heart’s desires. For good or ill, magic irrevocably alters the lives of all those touched by it.
One of the best aspects of Signal to Noise is its suspenseful and meaningful story. There’s a delicate balance between coming of age, modern fantasy, and suspense. Meche’s family is given real depth. Her laid back father, a failed musician, longs to be Meche’s age again. Her uptight mother mourns her chosen life, failing marriage, and fading career options. Yet, like any teen, Meche is blind to the larger issues. Signal showcases various stages of life, delivering them in the background of a well written, easy-to-read story.
Music permeates Meche’s life. She listens to many English and Spanish songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Meche’s life is one translated by a diamond tipped stylus, expressed and complimented by song. Her life’s playlist consists of blues, jazz, prog, and classic rock ballads of her father’s generation. The blend of music and modern fantasy is unique and paint an interesting portrait of youth in the 80s.
The relationship between Meche and her best friend Sabastian propels the story forward. Without too many spoilers, their relationship is important to their groups overall dynamic. Signal to Noise is about real choices and decisions. Just as with Meche’s home life, some things exciting, while others are downright depressing. Expect an emotional roller coaster. Although I generally dislike reading teen romance, this novel is different.
Signal to Noise is a deeply quintessential tale about being different and bearing the consequences of one’s actions. It’s about relationships, people, and the sacrifices we make over the years. But it’s also fun and filled with awesome music and modern day magic. Nostalgic about the 80s? Into music? Check it out. 5/5
“Guys, I just want to remind you I have to be home by seven,” Daniela said. “I’m also not allowed to do any Satanic stuff.”
“They folded and kept their dreams in the same drawer, spun fantasies side by side, lived in the easy harmony of youth which did not know the need for tall walls and sturdy defenses.”
“In Mexico City everything returns. The rains and the past and everything in between.”
“You don’t get to rewind your life like a tape and splice it back together, pretending it never knotted and tore, when it did and you know it did. Didn’t he get that?”