Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 978-1-60928-191-5
Sci-fi Romance, 2010
The Balance of Silence has plenty of angst to the wazoo, without the main characters wallowing in it to the point of being a walking My Chemical Romance CD. It is set in a futuristic setting that is still on the backward side and features two intriguing main characters. Just my kind of story, in other words, and I eagerly settle down to read this baby.
Riv is a bit of a drifter, damaged by an experience in the past that he can’t move on from. Recently resigned from the ReliefCorps, he opts to do “med runs” instead – delivering medicinal supplies and vaccines to remote places on distant planets. In his run to Maltana, a dead-end planet mostly inhabited by people who can’t get away for one reason or the other, he encounters a mysterious piano player, simply called Ducks, in a bar. It seems like Ducks showed up in that bar one fine day with no past and no voice, and the bar owner leaves him be to play the piano because Ducks brings in people with his piano playing.
When Ducks warns him of planned foul play by some locals hoping to steal the supplies he is carrying, Riv decides to repay his debt to Ducks by giving that man a lift out of the godforsaken place. What do you think will happen between them?
Despite being set in a Mos Eisley Cantina-style setting, The Balance of Silence has very little action. This is a romance with more internal conflict and character study than fireworks. The lack of action is compensated amply by the poetic relationship developing between Riv and Ducks, however. These two men are both damaged inside, and it is a beautiful kind of catharsis to see them slowly heal in each company’s however.
However… well, remember how the Beast turned into a Prince in that Disney cartoon Beauty and the Beast and people would go, “Uh… the Prince is an ugly wuss, I want the Beast back!”? Ducks finally gets his voice back and I have the same feeling. Ducks with voice lacks that special wounded vibe that makes him such a delightful woobie. In fact, Ducks with voice is even annoying, come to think of it. I want that silent and tormented Ducks who expresses himself through his music back!
The disappointing payoff with Ducks turning into Daffy Duck aside, The Balance of Silence is for the most part a pretty interesting story with characters toasted on the emo side just the right amount for my liking. Walking wounded characters that don’t whine but opt to do things instead – just the way I like them. Seriously, it’s a shame about Ducks getting his voice back and start coming off like a sarcastic seventeen-year old girl pretending to be a gay man. Talk about a complete moodkill.