BOOK REVIEW: SIGNAL TO NOISE / AUTHOR: SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA / PUBLISHER: SOLARIS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
The mixtape has evolved into a symbol for nostalgia; the obsolete format effortlessly evokes the past in the minds of anyone who grew up in the last century, and many childhood memories feature a personalised musical compilation of some description. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest work, Signal to Noise is also summed up by the mixtape; it’s about music, nostalgia and blending all sorts of things together.
The plot revolves around Meche, a typical '80s teenager living in Mexico City. Her interests are music, friends and the occult. Her world is dominated by her alcoholic and unfaithful father and his extensive (and rather cool) record collection. Despite a strong connection to her family, Meche is desperate to move away from her destructive life and her only escape is her two friends, Daniela and Sebastian, and deep love of music. When things become too much, she discovers, quite by accident, that music is the key to wielding magical powers; a secret that she rather unwisely shares with her friends to very dramatic effect.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is a delight; she explores all the insecurities and difficulties of a teenaged life, and quite rightly assumes that giving a trio of angst-ridden, hormone-driven children the keys to reality is a bad idea. The action dives backwards and forwards between the '80s and the modern day, allowing the author to frame the events in specific context.
Magic through music is not a new idea, of course. However, this is not a high fantasy exploration such as Spellsinger nor is it an super trendy indie-rock drama like Phonogram. Instead, what we have is a messy, sprawling and yet tightly crafted tale that is about love, loss, growing up and learning who you are. Moreno-Garcia’s writing is enchanting and engaging. Despite their flaws, it’s difficult not see a little of yourself in the prose, and this makes the problems the characters face all the more heart aching.
If you ever wondered what it would have been like to grow up in the '80s in Mexico City, Signal to Noise may be the closest you’ll ever get. If you like well drawn characters, cool tunes and lashing and lashings of nostalgia, then you should check this out.
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