Snow: NOT a Winter Wonderland

snow

I’ve gone through a complete cycle of emotions after reading Snow, by Ronald Malfi. At first I couldn’t stop comparing it to one of the earlier selections I’ve had to read for my Monsters course, that being Breeding Ground. Since I wasn’t really fond of Breeding Ground, I decided that I didn’t like Snow. Then, while pondering my dislike of Snow, I realized that Snow really wasn’t that bad. Then it started to snow for real around here (just a spit, but still) and I decided that I don’t like real snow, but that Snow the book was growing on me. I’ve now concluded that Snow was a decent one-time read, with characters that I actually liked somewhat, a unique monster, and enough shooting and explosions to keep me moving toward the somewhat satisfactory ending.

I don’t really like recapping the story in my posts: these are really supposed to be all about the monsters, but I also realize that not everyone who’s reading this has read the book, so here’s the tiny recap: Main dude down on his luck is stuck at the airport over Christmas because of a terrible storm in the Midwest. He meets up with a woman who is also stuck, and together with another random couple (read: CANNON FODDER) they rent a four-wheel-drive and attempt to drive from O’Hare to DeMoines, Iowa. Of course they can’t see, the roads suck, they almost hit a creepy dude in the road and end up stuck in this town, that they quickly find out has been taken over by translucent snow-creatures with sickle-hands that turn humans into pod-people-puppets or eat them. Survival ensues.

The monsters Malfi created in Snow I thought were pretty unique. You kind of infer by the end of the novel that they’re either some sort of alien or from another dimension (there’s a weird electric-eye-cloud-possibly-portal that floats around that I’ll get to in a minute). The monsters are hard to see on their own; they appear as drifts of snow, with maybe a weird shimmer here and there, and they don’t always behave like snow. Mainly, they move. Normal snow usually only falls, not move and swirl independently. Mutant snow would be terrifying on its own ( I think about how bad East TN is about snow, even when it’s not even an inch. These guys would shit their pants around mutant snow); but the truly scary part is when the snow gets close. It can concentrate just enough to solidify its arms which have nasty sickle blades as hands. They hook these into your shoulders and move you out, then they move in. In the book they’re described as “skin-suits” or “puppets”. That would scare the bejebus out of me. So you have mutant snow tornadoes, puppet people, oh and the beasties can band together and make a giant snow monster. Eat your heart out, Abominable Snow Man!

Now I have to talk about the similarities between Snow and Breeding Ground. Weird monsters, plucky band of survivors, funky weather, and a weird fascination with sex. But Snow does all these things in a much more believable, not as weird way. I liked the characters a lot better in Snow. The main guy, Todd, fully admitted to being a bit of a douchebag, but was trying to make things right by his son. He had a lot more depth than Matt did. And when Todd finds himself attracted to Kate, the woman he meets at the airport and hitches a ride with, he questions his emotions and calls himself out for being dumb and thinking with his lower regions in the middle of a catastrophe. At least he’s unattached and isn’t mourning his pregnant girlfriend that just died the day before. Stupid Matt.

At least the funky weather makes a lot more sense in here. You KNOW the creatures need it to be cold; the book is called SNOW for Pete’s sake. When the clouds started to look funky I was worried that it would never get more than a nod like the weird weather in Breeding Ground. But then we see the electrical-storm-cloud thing, that tends to move. You find out that it acts like a portal, and is most likely communicating directions to the puppet people. It also has rendered all the electronics in the town useless. Good thing Todd brings his trusty laptop!

My phone works Bro!

My phone works Bro!

Finally, what the heck is it with people in terrible situations thinking about their past sexual relationships? Is it the fear of death that makes us think of the act of creation? I have never been in a situation where I’m about to be eaten by a giant spider or ridden by a snow ghost, so I can’t say that isn’t what I would be thinking about. But I just found it jarring in this book, and whenever one of these sections popped up, it took me out of the story. Trying to relieve the tension maybe? I don’t think that’s a good way to do it.

Oh, and I forgot to mention. The snow makes kids’ faces implode so they are completely just a bubble of skin. Creepy and gross. More so than anything else in the book.

So Snow has pretty creepy monsters that are definitely unique enough to stand on their own, even if the actual premise of people surviving against crazy creatures wanting to end the world isn’t all that original. I will never look at snowdrifts or kids in those huge bubble parkas in the same way ever again.

Towns across the Midwest all saw something similar.

Towns across the Midwest all saw something similar.

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Relic: Plants Make You Craaaaazzzyy!!!

The Relic by David Moscati

Relic seems like such a classic kind of story, it should be done more often. You get a touch of Indiana Jones, mixed with Theseus and the Minotaur, to equal Night at the Museum. With body parts. Sounds good to me! ( Oh and there are SPOILERS!)

I love stories having to do with mysterious cultures and their monsters/gods. Relic’s monster comes from a thought-to-be extinct tribe in the Amazon, a curse centered around an old idol discovered and shipped to the New York Museum of Natural History. The monster comes along with it, a beast that could be ape-like, lizard-like, or big cat-like (the book including the cover hints at something like a pissed-off gorilla with raptor claws, while the movie has this apey-lizardy thing that looks badass). It makes its home in the labyrinthine tunnels under the museum, stalking its prey. This giant scary ape-lizard hunts you, rips you apart and then noses around in your brain to eat this tiny little delicate part that is almost like a drug to it. It’s like a chocoholic with preternatural strength going nuts in a Godiva store and ripping everything apart just to get to the cherry cheesecake truffles, because they’re addicted to them. Only there’s not as much human carnage.

Relic2

The book never gives a great description of the monster itself, almost pulling a movie trick of keeping the beast in the shadows. Even when Margo finally confronts it in the end she doesn’t get a good look at it. I really enjoyed the way the monster looked in the movie (though the movie itself isn’t all the great). It looks truly horrifying, and can definitely rip you in half without batting an eye. The fact that there is almost human intelligence behind all that power and hunger, and you can see why everyone in the museum would be terrified. All of the science behind the monster’s creation lost me a little bit though. It has to do with these specific plants that grew in the area where the tribe was from, and the enzymes from the plant were like a virus that mutated the tissue, or something crazy like that. And that enzyme was similar to the hormone secreted by the hypothalamus that the monster needs to nosh on in order to survive. Basically, the plants mutate animal tissue. Or human tissue. In the book, none of the brilliant scientists ever figure that out, except for one guy that of course wants to use it (enter Book Two). I liked in the movie at least they figure out at the end that the monster used to actually be a person.

The setting itself is great too: a huge, old museum, built on top of an even older structure full of twisty tunnels is the perfect setting for a more modern monster story. It reminds me of the old monster story of the Minotaur, roaming around his maze, stalking his meals while they haphazardly wander around getting more lost by the minute. The monster is obviously not lost. It’s not until Pendergrast produces blueprints that the monster loses some of its power.

All in all I enjoyed Relic. While I am not rushing out to read Reliquary, I think the book stands on its own as a different take of the monster in the maze story, with an actually unique monster in the middle.