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The Snow (GOLLANCZ S.F.) Paperback – 11 Aug 2005
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The best novel yet from 'the king of high concept SF' (GUARDIAN)
The new Adam Roberts novel is a story of global apocalypse, old hatreds and new beginnings. It is his best novel to date. And this is how the world will end ...'The snow started falling on the sixth of September, soft noiseless flakes filling the sky like a swarm of white moths, or like static interference on your TV screen - whichever metaphor, nature or technology, you find the more evocative. Snow everywhere, all through the air, with that distinctive sense of hurrying that a vigorous snowfall brings with it. Everything in a rush, busy-busy snowflakes. And, simultaneously, paradoxically, everything is hushed, calm, as quiet as cancer, as white as death. And at the beginning people were happy.' But the snow doesn't stop. It falls and falls and falls. Until it lies three miles thick across the whole of the earth. Six billion people have died. Perhaps 150,000 survive. But those 150,000 need help, they need support, they need organising, governing. And so the lies begin. Lies about how the snow started. Lies about who is to blame. Lies about who is left. Lies about what really lies beneath.See all Product description
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Much to everyone's delight, snow starts falling all over the world. But as it piles up, the charm quickly wears off. And by the time the Earth is covered in three miles of packed snow, everyone is too dead to complain.
Roberts follows the snowfall from start to finish - the early days of panic, the boredom and the pain of captivity and then the fledgling society that emerges on the other side. With only 150,000 survivors around the world, the human race is a very different entity (and a very cold one). The attempts to rebuild society are awkward - people must choose between looking forwards or finding someone to blame.
Snow is an awkward fusion of two different books. One, exploring the snow's human impact, is terrific. I've always been a sucker for post-apocalyptic thrillers, and this is a good one: even the most mundane aspects of government become tricky when you're standing on top of a pile of powder. The power politics are well-developed, as are the various players - the close-minded general, the awkward revolutionary and the scheming wife.
The novel's style, a collection of government papers, interviews and testimonials, gives this more impact. Snow is a gathering of unreliable narrators. The reader has to work at deciphering what to believe and how the stories click together. Hard work, but rewarding.
Roberts also makes the snow's impact felt on the personal level. We understand what it is like to scrounge for food or cross a hundred-foot drift... even the joy of smoking a carefully-husbanded cigarette.
The latter part of Snow is another book entirely. For some perverse reason, the (slightly goofy) science-fiction origin of the snowfall is explained. Not only is this explanation unnecessary, but since it is bizarre, unanticipated, and completely out of left-field, it undermines the rest of the book. What was a Ballardian thriller about human beings in adverse circumstances suddenly transforms into ponderous retro pulp.
I highly recommend Snow for its auspiciously apocalyptic beginning. It is beautifully written and presents a fascinating take on the downfall (and tenuous resurgence) of human civilization. I also recommend it as a case study on disappointing endings. It's a valuable lesson for all science fiction authors: sometimes humans are enough.
That said I did like the story the Snow itself was cool, a plausible enough disaster scenario and was nicely delt with to start with. There where several big questions that the author never really tackled, like why the Americans felt the need to come over to the UK and start a city over London, how the snow miner machines worked, and how they managed to get planes above the snow, that said I didn't really mind those questions as the author gave enough explainations about his new world to keep it feeling real.
On the debate about the characters I liked Tira the 1st protagonist we where introduced to, they way she behaved seemed real to me as she came across as someone who was in shock and was just riding events. Far more a viewpoint than someone who did things or changed things. However I felt that [Blank] Fred the second character was more than a bit cardboard, this was annoying as he was a doer / victim (it was the victim but that really bugged me). This came to a head towards the end of the novel when he becomes vital to the story, and I just wanted him dead as he annoyed me so much.
Talking about the ending to this book, it came at me from so far out of the left feild that it left me cold when it hit. I just wish we had had some forewarning, I don't think it would have taken a lot, or spoilt the suprise if the possibility of this ending had been floated earlier in the book, even if done in a madman speach. That said once the shock had left and I re-engaged with the book I was left really enjoying the last couple of chapters. All in all I did enjoy this book and hope that the Author improves in the future, but I can't help but think the signing endorsements from critics and other authors might stop Mr Roberts from really looking at where he could improve in the future.