A good book with numerous music references can be hard to find. Oftentimes, it feels like the author is shoehorning in their favorite bands, songs, etc. But Signal to Noise is chock full of music references that don’t feel cloying or jammed in while fitting in well with the story.
Signal to Noise is set in Mexico City and veers between 1988 and 2009–Meche (a nickname for Mercedes), the main character, is in town in 2009 for her father’s funeral. She’s not happy about returning to her hometown, having escaped Mexico City by way of a computer programming job in Norway. Through the interchanging time periods, we learn why Meche is not pleased about her return to Mexico City. I loved the device of switching between time periods–a story is not necessarily a linear one, and Signal to Noise is a great example of a well-done non-linear story. Without divulging too much, the book ends at the very beginning, a no better place to end for this story.
Aside from music references galore, Signal to Noise is a supernatural book but again, done so that it doesn’t feel like magic is jammed down your throat. Meche and her friends discover that their vinyl records hold magic and they experiment casting spells with them. The supernatural is almost an afterthought as it’s readily accepted by the main characters, and Moreno-Garcia gives us a plausible (as one can be with magic) explanation.
Needless to say, I really loved this book. At first, I found Meche difficult to like, but she grew on me throughout the book. It was compelling and the interweaving between the different time periods was written so well. The characters were also well-written–Meche, Sebastian, their friend Daniela, Meche’s parents all felt like real people who were sitting right there in the room with me. Finishing a book with such good characters can be so bittersweet as you want to continue hanging out with these characters, but nope, book’s over. Bummer.
Let’s hope that Silvia Moreno-Garcia writes another book soon!