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Doesn't reinvent the wheel
on 30 January 2015
First time I've read a book by Ronald Malfi and still in two minds as to whether I will read any more. The story is about a town besieged by mysterious beings in the form of snow, and while this kind of set-up is not particularly new, given predecessors such as "The Bodysnatchers", it was engaging enough and set an eerie tone from the moment we meet Eddie Clement, a man our protagonists encounter in the middle of a snowstorm.
So, who are our protagonists? Well, Todd Curry is a recovering gambler intent on visiting his son for Christmas. However, a snowstorm cancels his flight, and in his desperation to be with his son, the man shares a rental car with a woman named Kate, a cynic meant to be engaged to a loving man. While previous readers have commented on the irritating reminders of how Todd and Kate are meant to be attractive and attracted to each other, as well as questioning the realism behind Todd's sexual interest in Kate under such circumstances, it surprised me more that readers failed to question the 'dated' feel of these characters. For instance, Kate talks like a fictional woman from the 80s, the type who babbles on about how independent she is as a woman whilst applying scarlet lipstick and gazing derisively down at a potential suitor (this is 'attractive' and 'likeable' how??) For the life of me, I can't remember what she actually does apart from look cute with her red curls and rely on the men to do the hard work! As for Todd... his motives are admirable, considering how he messed up his family life by gambling so much, but his persistent denials of requiring medical attention for a cut on his leg (that constantly bleeds, by the way!) just smacks of "dumb", not "hero". Same with Fred Wilkinson apparently saving his wife from the horror of what is happening by not telling her exactly what's going on, in case the truth should offend her 'sensibilities' or something (sorry, I know he's a caring person and there's nothing wrong with wanting his loved one not to suffer, but he can't protect her and she is in better physical shape than he is, so, again, another case of the "dumb"?)
The only saving grace female-wise is Shawna, the first human survivor Todd and Kate meet when they arrive in town, looking for help. Compared to Kate, and even Todd, Shawna is ahead of her time, prioritising goals and compartmentalising feelings until she has the luxury to deal with them. She is the only female character who ever feels human throughout this story, and you can understand her as a person. (SPOILER) Sadly for us, she doesn't last that long and goes out in the creepiest fashion by reaching the top of a basement staircase, only to encounter a group of possessed townsfolk, who promptly tear her to pieces.
I know a previous reader took exception to the 'religious nut' character, and while I also think it's unlikely that such a person would exist in this kind of crisis, you have to admit that meeting one would only increase the fright factor, right? Same with the travesty of a pregnant woman, who seems to despise Kate and children who aren't her own progeny. And the children... Another great creepy moment for me (SPOILER) was when Kate called to the twins she had hidden in the car.
I do share the impression that perhaps it would have been better to keep the mysterious snow beings mysterious for longer. After all, the thrill of Todd going back for a laptop wasn't really worth it…
Anyway, it this story worth reading? Well, I think so. It's certainly not a hard read! And it does distract you from a real wintry day. For fans of horror stories set in snowy climates, this is a perfect addition to the genre, though it doesn't reinvent the wheel.