Alicia and Jocelyn are here to present what we hope will be the first in a series of deep-diving into some of our favorite Latinx authors’ works. Today we will be talking about Mexican-Canadian SFF author, Silvia Moreno-Garcia.
[Find her website here or on Twitter @silviamg]
We quickly learned after meeting each other through Latinx Book Club that we were both fans of Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Therefore it was a natural decision when coming up with this post to buddy read her debut novel, Signal to Noise. Please feel free to join in our discussion if you are familiar with Moreno-Garcia’s novels – and even if you’re not! Cover is linked to Goodreads.
Title: Signal to Noise
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Release Date: February 10th 2015
“A literary fantasy about love, music and sorcery, set against the background of Mexico City.
Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said “I love you” with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?”
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Signal to Noise is her debut novel. Are you familiar with her other works? What was your overall impression with her first book?
Jocelyn: Yes, I’ve read all of her books so far and just think she’s incredible. I’ve definitely gone a bit out of order reading Signal last, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. There are some things I’ve started to consider trademarks of Moreno-Garcia’s writing and it was interesting getting to see how she’s progressed and what things she’s maybe changed or tightened up since.
Alicia: When we decide to buddy read this one, I wanted to make sure I read her novella Prime Meridian, which is the only other work of hers I didn’t have a chance to read yet. I did so before our buddy read, so can now call myself a Silvia Moreno-Garcia superfan? I really didn’t know what to expect going into this one, not just because it’s her debut but because all her works while astounding in their own ways are so distinct from one another. This one ended up being one of my favorites.
Jocelyn: I feel the exact same. I know going into each of her stories it’s going to be speculative in some fashion, but she moves so easily between sci-fi and fantasy. Also, yes I would like to jump onto this super-fandom bandwagon.
Alicia: She really does. I can’t think of another author who is so versatile and does every genre so well!
Music is such an important element in Signal to Noise. Moreno-Garcia provides her own kind of soundtrack for the novel, mentioning a myriad of songs. Were you familiar with the music? And if not, did you listen to any of the songs she mentioned?
Alicia: I was only familiar with maybe a fourth of the songs she mentioned, but I went all in from listening to the songs she mentioned to recording them in my notes. There are no less than 50 individual songs incorporated in Signal to Noise!
Jocelyn: I was familiar with a few of them. The thing is, I don’t consider myself a musical person so no, I didn’t go and listen the music mentioned.
Signal to Noise shifts between 1988-9 and 2009. Did you find one of these timelines more compelling than the other? Why or why not?
Alicia: I honestly enjoyed both timelines so much. I’m not sure I could choose. Moreno-Garcia writes both in such a way that neither felt more important than the other. I enjoyed reading about Meche and her friends as teens when they were still young and experiencing first crushes and the like. Meche, twenty years later, is still very much moody and abrasive. I loved that we gradually got to fill in those gaps from her youth. We learn what caused the rift between herself and her friends and it made her interactions with them as adults so much weightier.
Jocelyn: Agreed! Usually I do end up liking one timeline better, which means I’m generally wary going into a book knowing that it’ll follow multiple times and/or characters, but that was not a problem here. There was a good balance of finding out how the past timeline impacted the present. I also really enjoyed watching the fallout of the relationship between Meche and Sebos.
Alicia: That reminds me of those books with multiple POVs where you start to dread reading your least favorite. I never felt that way reading Signal. Those scenes between Meche and Sebastian killed me. So much tension. I loved it!
Jocelyn: She does angst so well.
Quick, name three songs you’d want included in a soundtrack about your life.
Jocelyn: I’m going to cheat here (again not a musical person) and say any of the songs from Joanna Newsom’s album Ys. It’s a perfect collection of songs and I don’t know that I could just pick three.
Alicia: All my picks are going to be “old” because although I do enjoy music, I am terrible at keeping up to date with new music. I’d go with Landfill by Daughter, Winter Solstice by Cold Specks, and Autumn Tree by Milo Greene because I dig moody music.
Let’s talk about the journey through her work. We’ve both read all of her currently available novels. Where did you start? Do you have a favorite?
Jocelyn: I started with Certain Dark Things, which is my second favorite from her. A vampire noir is absolutely the kind of thing to suck me in. It was only after reading and loving that that I was confident and curious enough to pick up some of her books that, at first glance, maybe weren’t my cup of tea. Prime Meridian and The Beautiful Ones I read pretty close together and enjoyed. They definitely solidified her as an all-time favorite author. But my favorite (so far) was her 2019 release, Gods of Jade and Shadow. It’s no secret that I love all mythology-based fantasy, so that one was just made for me.
Alicia: Certain Dark Things was also my first SMG novel. It actually didn’t draw me in from the start because I don’t read a lot of vampire novels, but it took place in Mexico City, so I wanted to give it a shot. And the world-building alone was so dynamic! I instantly became a fan. The Beautiful Ones was my second novel and I fell so hard. I keep saying how understated it is and there’s just something about that that really draws me in. It’s my personal favorite. This summer I read, in order, Gods of Jade and Shadow, Prime Meridian, and Signal to Noise. I’d have to think on it more, but I’d rank Gods second along with Signal. But really they’ve all been good and I’ve rated every one four or five stars.
Jocelyn: Prime Meridian is the only one below 4 stars for me. I still really enjoyed its quiet musings, but I often encounter that short stories and novellas leave me wanting and that was no exception.
For those who might be unfamiliar with her work, what would you say to convince them to pick her up?
Alicia: Silvia Moreno-Garcia literally has something for everyone. If you’re looking for something dark and gritty, reach for Certain Dark Things. If you enjoy romance and fantasy, The Beautiful Ones is the way to go. Gods of Jade and Shadow is perfect for mythology and fairytale fans. Prime Meridian is for those who like exploring existentialism in fiction. And Signal to Noise for both the music fan and those who love magical realism.
Jocelyn: I agree wholeheartedly! I love that there’s so much freedom and fluidity in the way she explores genres.
To go back to my earlier point on trademarks I associate with SMG, I think one of the biggest reasons to pick up something by her is for the characters. So many of her books feel like character stories and I have found that even secondary characters are complex and complicated like real people. I don’t know how she writes them to feel so tangible, but she does.
Thank you for joining us for our first edition of the Latinx Chat Room. We’d love to hear from you if you’re also a fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia or just intrigued by her work. Let us hear from you in the comments!