(★★★★½) Does the mere mention of Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" or Golding's "Lord of the Flies" make you whimper and want to huddle in a corner? (It's OK--I too was traumatized by having to read them when I did.) If so, then gird yourself before sitting down to read THE SPEED OF WINTER, a compelling, tightly-written sci-fi novelette by B. Morris Allen.
THE SPEED OF WINTER is an unflinching, macabre look at how human nature can devolve to baser instincts when command and other societal structures break down, as well as how disillusionment and fear can sometimes be displaced onto a wholly innocent party. It is also a story about what can happen to a child's mind and soul after being betrayed and abandoned by those closest to her. Unrest and violent acts (including sexual violence) are noted, either before or after the fact, but not in great detail and the scenes themselves are fade-to-black. Nonetheless, the reader is left in no doubt as to what happened.
For me, THE SPEED OF WINTER played out like a movie, alternating between cutaways to the narrator's video diary (my input here) and what occurs on the Arkship once the crew realizes that, after centuries of travel in cold sleep, their new home is an ice planet. The Arkship essentially becomes a dystopia-like environment as the crew grapples with being stranded with no viable alternative. The story covers a long time span so the reader only gets glimpses of critical events. Some may find the jumps in time a bit disconcerting but I thought that it mirrored how a person's mind would jump from event to event when thinking about the past.
The only reason that I didn't round up to 5 stars is that THE SPEED OF WINTER's short length limited character development and left too much unsaid. In addition, I kept wondering about certain things. [hidden spoiler removed for Amazon] But maybe this was the author's intent? After all, a person's mind, left unfettered, can imagine a multitude of scenarios.
THE SPEED OF WINTER effectively wiped away any lingering traces of my light holiday books and thoroughly cleansed my reading palette. Call me a masochist but despite its bleak storyline, Mr. Allen's excellent writing and storytelling has me impatient for the next installment in the Four Seasons quintet.
* Copy provided by the author for an objective review.