Synopsis of the book

This was posted here in 2005, but has since been deleted. If you don't have a copy of the book, here's a synopsis. It's not mine, and, unfortunately, since the message has been purged, I can't give credit to the actual author.

EDIT: The original author of this message appears to be user voyagrvi. However, that does not appear to be the name that was used in the original synopsis, as that account dates from only March 2013. Unless possibly the original synopsis posted on IMDB in 2005 was cribbed from elsewhere. I have posted the contents of his message of his authorship following the synopsis.

OK, the book. Well, let me put it this way...during one of my numerous conversations with Craig Harrison about The Quiet Earth, he commented rather sarcastically at one point that he didn't know why Cinepro had bought the rights to his novel, considering that the movie that they ended up making is nothing like it. And he's right...don't let anyone tell you otherwise; the book and the movie are two very different kettles of fish.

There is a general similarity netween the film and the book in terms of various set pieces...the clock phenomena, the crashed airliner, finding Perrin's corpse at the lab, the hero's surname being Hobson etc. But, other than that, book and film diverge wildly.

In the book, our hero's name is John Hobson. Rather than working on an international project to develop a global energy transmission grid, Hobson here is a member of a small NZ research team doing experiments in the field of genetics. The group's aim is to reactivate dormant genes in human DNA...high frequency soundwaves are being used to 'resonate' the genes into life. [A biologist I talked to years ago said there is no way that could work, but who cares] Hobson is suspended from the project by team leader Perrin after Hobson accidentally sets the ultrasonic resonator machine too high. (An immense invisible force blows Hobson across the room, and afterwards he notices that while the specimen containers for plants inside the machine are intact, the ones for insects are empty. Must have forgotten to load them in, he thinks...)

Anyway, Perrin boots Hobson off the project for two weeks (to get him out of the way so he can try Hobson's ideas, our hero suspects correctly), and Hobson goes off to the small town of Thames to...kill himself. We learn later on that this decision is not wholly related to moral qualms over the project, but also stems from despondency over how his life has fallen apart. Some time back, he allowed his profoundly autistic son to drown in the bath, an act of omission which killed his marriage as well.

The book starts with Hobson waking up in the hotel in Thames after having a nightmare about falling. The power's off, the radio is dead, the town is completely deserted, and every clock he finds is stuck at 6-12. A nice bit that should've been in the film has Hobson finding a car halted at an intersection...the ignition is on, the engine is stalled, and the drivers' seatbelt is lying across the seat *still buckled*.
Hobson explores the town at length, finds no-one, returns to his hotel room. When night falls, he's terrorised by an unseen *something* that is apparently lurking outside in the hotel carpark. This section of the book is intensely creepy. After making some noises, and scaring the **** out of Hobson, it departs....if it was ever there at all....

Next day, Hobson loads up with guns and camping gear and drives north to Auckland. From there, the book and film run more or less as one for a long stretch...deserted Auckland, the plane crash, Hobson goes to the lab, Hobson finds Perrin's [undamaged] corpse at the controls of the resonator machine, Hobson gets sealed into the lab, blows himself out. Following this, Hobson departs Auckland and heads south, looking for survivors. He never goes crazy, as Zac does in the book, but realises that it will only be a matter of time before he does. He finds some baby fish in a river in Taupo ...he also came across an earthworm in Thames...and, in the book's best moment, hears an unearthly howling sound coming from far across Lake Taupo. An electronic bawling wail, 'like a foghorn gone wrong'....

Backtracking a bit, I should point out that in the novel Hobson doesn't link the project he worked on with the Effect until the very end of the story. In the movie, Zac puts 2 and 2 together as soon as he reaches the Grid Control lab, and thus the attempts to inject ambuigity into the narrative later on are robbed of most of their impact.

Backtracking in the rundown a bit, also...before he reaches Taupo, Hobson is driving southwards thorugh the night when a hideous mutant animal leaps out in front of his car. Hobson swerves to avoid it, and doesn't hit it, though he should've. There is no sign of the creature after that, and Hobson wonders if he didn't imagine it. If he did, then God help him. Superbly creepy bit. OK, after hearing the noise in Taupo, Hobson soons runs into Apirana Maketu. The movie implies Api is a soldier, whereas the book firmly establishes this. The two of them then head off south again, and arrive in Wellington. It's empty, of course. The duo set up a home for themselves in a swanky apartment and explore the surrounding area. Hobson tries to discover why he and Api survived, but can find nothing abnormal in their makeups that would account for this survival. As time goes on, the two get heartily sick of each other.

While going for a burn down a highway in a sports car together, a woman races out into the path of the vehicle. Api, who's at the wheel, tries but fails to avoid running her over. The two of them take the now mortally wounded Polynesian woman back to their apartment. During this time, Api and Hobson become openly hostile towards one another, as they argue over what to do. Api goes out to think, and Hobson explores his room. He finds gruesome pictures of Api and his army buddies mutilating Viet Cong prisoners in the soldier's wallet; Hobson realises he is alone with a freakin' psycho...
The woman dies without regaining consciousness, and this leads to the fatal break between the two men. Hobson barricades himself in his room while a deranged Api rants at him about the supposed connection between the 6-12 enigma and the Book of Revelations. Finally, it comes to open warfare, Api trying to blow Hobson away with a gun. After a short battle, Hobson uses a grenade to fatally wound Api.

Hobson then breaks open a strongbox he took from Perrin's lab and reads the man's notes. It seems that Perrin has had suspicions that the work Hobson has done with sonics and radiation has damaged him on a genetic level...his autistic son is proof of this. The son's assisted suicide and his own attempt at it in the hotel room are a signature of a self-destructive flaw in his DNA. There's also an implication of mental instability, paranoia etc.

We then learn that, prior to leaving the lab to go on leave, Hobson sabotaged the resonator machine so that it would overload without showing so on the controls. He does this to make sure that when Perrin tries out Hobson's ideas in his absence, the machine will blow up and be unusable until he returns from leave. It is at this point that Hobson realises that he has caused the Effect...the same force he almost unleashed during the accident was not stopped this time, and the sound pulse released in the overload 'unravelled' the DNA of every living animal above a certain genetic complexity level on the planet. He then speculates that perhaps this was a 'tripwire' placed in the DNA code to prevent Humanity from working out the secret of life...God stopping us from getting too big for our boots, to paraphrase Day Of The Dead.

As for what 'saved' the three of them, well, Hobson can only wonder at some extremely rare and subtle biological or cellular aberration which rendered them immune to the Effect. Other speculations follow...this is all just a coma dream that Hobson is experiencing after his sleeping pill overdose at the hotel; he's in his own personal Hell where he must confront a demon [Api, who emerges from mist like a monster when Hobson first meets him] and kill it over and over and over again; the Effect is a natural evolutionary process, which occurred before when the dinosaurs were wiped out; this is a replica Earth, and only he, Api and the woman actually vanished; and so on. With the only two other people left in the world lying dead in the apartment, Hobson realises there is nothing left to live for,and jumps off the roof of the apartment building. He plummets....

...then sits bolt upright in bed in his hotel room, after having a dream about falling. It's really quiet outside, and the bedside clock is stuck at 6-12....THE END

So, there you have it. Not much like the film at all, huh? :)

Message to me from author:
(September 6, 2013): Why is YOUR name on MY Quiet Earth book synopsis on imdb?!!!

from voyagrvi (Fri Sep 6 2013 03:31:16)

IMDb member since March 2013

I don't know who you are. I don't care who you are. But imagine my surprise to hop on imdb, go to the page for The Quiet Earth, and see YOUR name on the synopsis of the book *I* wrote on the comments board.

I will be taking appropriate action.


Thanks for info! Original sounds much more better. But movie was total okey too.


In fact, I am the author of this. I think you could have done a little more digging to find me. It wouldn't have been that hard.


Wow. If the disclaimer that appears at the top was there before your edit, someone needs to take some serious chill pills, considering you were more than willing but unable to provide proper credit at the time.

Great synopsis either way, thank you both for (re)bringing it to us!

As with many things, your mileage may vary.


Meh. The book sounds too Twilight Zone-ish. I prefer the changes they made for the film. I liked the twist ending though (which is pure Twilight Zone) but it doesnt compare to a freaking planet rising off the coast of New Zealand!!