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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Breeding Ground: …whaaa?

This week’s adventure in Monster Mashing puts us in a small English town, that becomes Breeding Ground, by Sarah Pinborough. While spiders creep me out A LOT, and telepathic mutant spiders that grow inside humans and burst out Alien-style from women’s wombs REALLY creeps me out, there was enough WTF moments in here to diminish the creep factor and make me just shake my head when I was done. Literally. That’s what I did. I closed the book, and shook my head. Then I immediately tried to describe the craziness to my boyfriend, who also got that glazed-over WTF? look too.

It's reading my MIND!!!

It’s reading my MIND!!!

The story is vaguely typical. Main character guy Matt is happy with his girlfriend, then she gets pregnant. Things are okay, but she gets fat. Too fat. Too fat to just be pregnant. Then she changes and gets creepy, gross stuff happens, and Matt is out of there. Comes across telepathic mutant spider things, that have apparently burst out of all the women in the town. Eventually he meets up with other survivors, including a young woman with her little sister that are apparently not affected. The try to survive, blah blah, end up at a military compound with some more survivors, everything looks bleak, the weather changes, there are suicides, and murder by mutant spiders, and then male spiders start to appear out of the blue, and then…that’s it. Oh and there’s a deaf dog.

My biggest beef with this story is that there is no reason whatsoever for this to be happening in the first place. It just…happens. The closest thing you get to even a hint of a reason is that the scientist that the survivors meet in the military compound says the reason is genetically-modified food. COME ON. I just can’t buy it. Sure that stuff is scary, and who knows what kind of effect it has and will have on our bodies if we consume mass quantities of it. But growing mutant-spiders that burst out of you then cocoon you from the inside out to eat you? Doesn’t even have a hint of plausibility to me. I would have been more content if there was a hint, even a vague hint, of alien abduction, or a crazy experiment gone wrong, or something from the past coming back all mutated. But I don’t buy into that excuse, and I really hoped the scientist was just being crazy or dumb. But he wasn’t. Oh and I don’t think it explains much about the weather either; the weather suddenly turns almost rain-forest like. It pours tepid water every day and it gets really humid and hot. I’m supposing that these conditions are great for the spiders. But outside of people noticing that the weather is weird, no one makes any kind of connection between the spiders and the weather. None that I saw anyway. Maybe I missed something. I’m not going to reread it to find out.

There were a lot of other things that bothered me, almost too much to get into them all. Matt was apparently a total pimp in this book, starting out with his girlfriend, then moving on to survivor Katie in mere days after his girlfriend gives spider-birth. Then after unfortunateness happens to Katie Matt ends up with Rebecca the deaf lady and gets her preggers.

Really?

Add to that the whole deaf-blood-acts-like-acid-to-the-spiders thing, and the fact that no one has a cell phone or a computer (a minor detail to be sure but it still bothered me), and then the male spiders start popping out of all the men that are left except for the old guy George and Matt, our red-blooded virile protagonist that is in perfect heath and should have become a spider incubator with the rest of them. Maybe being intimate with the deaf girl gave him immunity? Who knows. All these questions made my head hurt.

You'll be scared when they come out of YOUR FACE.

You’ll be scared when they come out of YOUR FACE.

It really sounds like I hated this book. And I did really bitch about it when I was done ( and in the previous paragraphs). But you know, I still read it in two days. When I wasn’t reading it, I thought about where the story was going. And I still got the tenseness of the atmosphere, and the creepiness of the whole thing. Especially the four chapters, when things are just slowly starting to change; watching Chloe’s slow transformation as she grew fatter and changed was more horrifying for me than anything else. So even if, in the end, I was left scratching my head, I do have to admit that it was still an eerie and compelling read. Minus the part about the GM foods.

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