I GREW UP near an Indigenous archaeological site, located right next to the sprawling elementary school I attended in California's Central Valley. Behind a chain-link fence sat massive acorn-grinding stones resting under the expansive shade of oak trees. My predominantly white third-grade class and I took a trip there once, to the attached visitor's center. Our visit was intended to teach us about the practices of the people whose land we occupied and for whom our school was named. One of the lessons involved walking through the crackling heat of late August, my pale skin slathered with the faint purple tint of sunscreen. We were told to find a spot to pause and silently observe what changes might occur in the nature around us. After a few minutes, rustling brush parted and a lanky coyote slunk into the clearing. Its corn silk eyes held me in thrall for a lethargic second before it padded away. The drive to anthropomorphize that interaction as something akin to understanding, some primordial moment of connection, eventually dissipated for me. But for Sean, the headstrong protagonist in Lee Mandelo's new novella Feed Them Silence , the pull of affinity for animals seems to be one of the few forces she lets guide her decisions. The opening chapter follows Sean immediately after a technological breakthrough in which the research team she leads has successfully implanted a “neural mesh” into a wolf nicknamed Kate. Sean has already undergone this same procedure, and when the connection between the two is activated, she'll have a one-way view into Kate's densely sensorial perception of near-future Minnesota's dwindling wilderness. Kate's pack only produced one cub that survived the last winter, and this theme of a faltering ecosystem plays out against the larger backdrop of climate entropy. The ecological chaos of 2031 that Silence imagines serves as an unceasing smoke alarm's low-battery warning—an alert the book's characters have all grown wearily accustomed to. Throughout the narrative, Sean's position as both lead researcher and primary test subject erodes the carefully constructed borders of personal attachment that scientists generally draw. She is tasked […]
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