Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Ronald Malfi
Published by Leisure Books
It's been a long time since I read a good, old-fashioned monster book and even longer since I've read one that's as really creepy as Snow. With this book Malfi takes a familiar premise, the isolated small town, combines it with several others, and brings up something new, bleak, and pretty damned scary. And it's set against the delightful backdrop of a Norman Rockwell painting of a Christmas village.
Snow begins in an airport, where Todd Curry is hoping his flight to see his son for Christmas hasn't been canceled due to a massive snowstorm. Of course, it has. Determined to get to see his boy and not disappoint him, he and three other people he just met rent an SUV to try to forge through the storm. Things go well until they are flagged down by a man who claims his daughter is lost in the snow. As it turns out, the man is being worn like a meat-suit by creatures who seem to be made of snow, and they've already taken over the entire town in which they pull over. Then the truck stops working, and all hell breaks loose.
Malfi, whose previous credits include the critically acclaimed Shamrock Alley and Passenger, strikes hard and fast with this book, playing on deep-seeded fears of isolation and of one's friends and families turning on them. The desolate little town he builds is picturesque, until one realizes that it seems to be empty and there are giant slicks of blood all over the place. With the town cut off from the rest of the world (none of the electronics work and trying to walk past the borders would be suicide), he is able to build a real sense of surreal danger with his prose. He also does a rather unique take on the children possessed by the monsters that will assuredly leave some readers avoiding elementary schools like the plague.
His two main characters are both wonderfully flawed. Todd, whose gambling addiction caused the breakup of his marriage, plays the part of a broken man seeking redemption admirably. His counterpart, Kate, is a spunky firecracker who, despite the situation, never loses her ability to grab the reader and drag him along.
The only sticking point of this novel is the ending. Without spoiling anything, it stands to reason that extreme circumstances do not leave people unchanged. If anything, it alters their world view and the characters evolve. Yet, the opportunity for the characters to evolve is missed, and it tends to detract from the story. Taken as a whole, however, Snow is an impressively atmospheric novel with a wicked streak. It keeps the reader on his toes, and just when you think you know what's about to happen, Malfi pulls the proverbial rug out from under you. It is an excellent read and makes me look forward to his next offering.
4 out of 5
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