The weather here in Western PA is fickle. Last week we had a couple 60 degree days when it got just muddy enough for my low-rider dogs to make a serious mess of my house. Today we’re under a winter weather advisory calling for 2-5 inches of snow.
Last February we had what I not-so-fondly refer to as Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon. In just a few days we got several feet of snow and in a week we had close to four feet. The city could not keep up with it and we were snowed in for the better part of a week. They eventually resorted to bringing dump trucks into the city areas to haul the snow to the rivers.
Anyway, I don’t think I’d ever experienced the kind of cabin fever I experienced last February. The sprogs were off school for the WHOLE WEEK. They broke the brand-new iMac. It was…. something I never want to experience again. I swear I still experience PTSD symptoms.
I was taking a horror class during that time. And it wasn’t too long after Snowpocalypse that I had to read Ronald Malfi’s Snow. The timing was uncanny. Here’s my review (with a short recap of Snowmageddon):
SPOILER ALERT! There are a few spoilers in this review!
I still have post-traumatic stress disorder from February’s Snowpocalypse. Reading this book wasn’t funny. In a detached kind of way, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if Malfi’s snow creatures had taken up residence in my front yard.
For those of you who don’t what I’m talking about, several feet of snow fell on Pittsburgh (and lots of other places) within just a few days. There was more expected (we got something like 4 feet total in about a week), so the city didn’t bother with clean-up and we were literally paralyzed. The roads were impassable, buildings collapsed from the weight on the roofs, we had to dig channels in the snow for my dog. It was hard to open doors. My kids were off school for an entire week, and it was too cold for them to be outside a whole lot. They shattered the monitor of our 6 week old iMac. Yeah.
Snow is an overpowering force. Even here in Western Pennsylvania, where snow is usually seen merely as an inconvenience, the kind of snowfall that Malfi describes in Snow is paralyzing. Cars don’t go, at least not safely, and even if they did, it’s not a good idea to go out and potentially get stranded in what could be fatal conditions. Snow is heavy, it muffles all sound and brings the world to a standstill. It’s frustrating and creates isolation that leads to further frustration.
I could totally relate to Todd. I hate snow.
So, here we have Todd, who is desperately trying to get to his son for the holidays (I hate the holidays, too, so this book was a double whammy of panic disorder for me). His flight is canceled because of a freak snowstorm that blankets the Midwest. He and a new acquaintance, Kate Jansen, decide to brave the weather, and along with another stranded couple, rent a Jeep and head out. It doesn’t seem to take long for the Jeep to break down. Naturally, it dies in a small town that has some strange inhabitants.
Malfi’s bad guys are snow creatures. I didn’t really get the feeling they were made of snow themselves, but rather some sort of delicate, mostly translucent material. They came in with the snow, though, and with the aid of snow, can be seen. They take over bodies, not in a classic possession, but more like puppeteers, in order to feed and wreak havoc.
And wreak havoc they do. They’ve somehow used an electromagnetic pulse to disable all electronics in the town and make calling for help impossible. They’ve taken over the bodies of most of the townspeople and terrorize the rest. Kate and Todd eventually team up with part of the town’s police force and have to recover a computer to send for help. It’s not easy.
Todd and Kate struggle to survive long enough to bring in the military. No one’s sure what to make of their story, but since similar reports are coming in from all over the country, we assume that something will be done about the snow creatures.
I had a few issues with the book, of course.
One, I think the temperature required for a snowfall like this is not given enough thought. I know that Todd and Kate talk about being cold, and there’s always the issue of finding shelter, but during the Snowpocalypse it was painful to stand on my patio for more than a few minutes without total protective gear. It seemed like the characters in this book weren’t always wearing heavy clothes, and while the cold was mentioned, it wasn’t enough. It’s a big part of snow: that biting, bitter cold.
Two, I never got a clear sense of the snow creatures. Usually this works for me, the only partial vision of the monsters, but it didn’t here. I think it’s because with the descriptions we got of them physically, I could imagine something, but it wasn’t scary enough.
Three, there was a lot of stomach trouble in this book. It started on page 12: “Todd felt something cold and wet turn over in his stomach. When his scotch arrived, he gulped down a hefty swallow in hopes of stilling whatever angst was squirming around down there.” And it continued throughout the book. On page 77, “[s]omething wet rolled over in his stomach.” Page 120, “ [s]omething was roiling around in his guts– a warning.” And this is by no means an exhaustive list.
There are also some other inconsistencies, like with Kate’s eyes. They went from green to aquamarine in the bar scene, which are two different colors in my estimation. There were also several instances of being able to see the moon– which shouldn’t be if it’s snowing as hard as Malfi says. When Shawna woke up in chapter 17, she put her hand in vomit still warm from the night before (p. 181). Not possible. I also noted a few instances where Malfi dropped from third person POV into omniscient.
The book was enjoyable. The many inconsistencies and bowel issues were distracting for me. To be truly scared, I have to be able to lose myself in a world, and I just couldn’t here. But the thought of creatures emerging from snow? After what I’d been through, yeah, that was awful.
Malfi, Ronald. Snow. Dorchester Publishing Co: New York, NY. 2010.