Snow: NOT a Winter Wonderland

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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.

The Thing: Proving I’m Still a Big Wuss

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It’s Halloween. Yay! I love Halloween. Pumpkins, ghoulies, little goblins coming to my door for candy (though I only got 4, bummer!). I got to dress up in some cute witchy couture for work. I love it. So of course what’s a better day to watch a scary movie like John Carpenter’s The Thing?

Any day. I hated watching this movie.

I didn’t hate the movie. Actually now that I have seen it, I will say that it is extremely effective at what it does, and it is very well done, especially for the time that it came out. But…I knew I would hate watching this. I knew that I would get scared. I didn’t expect to feel like I was going to get sick, but maybe that was my own damn fault for eating dinner during the first ten minutes. Before the bloody chunks started to fly.

While Ash in Alien may have complemented the alien for being the perfect organism, that android probably never ran into the Thing. The Thing is actually the perfect organism. It can assimilate you and become a perfect replica. It’s genius. You never know who its going to be, or what. It just can’t be something inanimate. It can sneak among your group, laugh to itself as you accuse each other of being monsters, then pick you off one by one. And if you don’t burn the entire thing…well let’s just say don’t let the body parts run away.

I’m getting nauseous just thinking about this.

thethingmac

One image sticks out to me, and it’s a mirror of the image that made me cry when I saw the remake/prequel when it came out in 2011. In John Carpenter’s version it’s even more haunting, because it’s dead. We think. Maybe. But it’s this grotesque shape, too many arms, too many fingers, drenched in goo. The face is two faces, like cojoined twins joined at the cheek, sharing one tongue that snakes between them.

God that’s a horrible way to live. Can you imagine if you still had conscious thought while that was happening to you? Well I think that’s what’s implied when we see the same mashed-together faces in the new version. They’re moving and screaming and you can just tell that they’re in agony.

Wow. This is the hardest blog post I’ve ever had to write. I am usually not this big a weenie, and can handle an okay amount of gore. But, while I didn’t cry watching this (like I did with the other one), recalling my revulsion is just making my¬† stomach really hurt. And I’m regretting those Swedish Fish I snuck out of the Halloween bucket.

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I am a big wuss and I cannot lie.

 

So, okay, in short, excellent movie. Kurt Russell is epic as always. I wanted him to get all Jack Burton on the Thing’s ass. Wilford Brimley minus his mustache took me a minute. But he was also epic. The monster is gory, gross, sneaky, and kind of wins in a way at the end of the movie. But you don’t really know. Because its very ambiguous. I’d like to think Kurt Russell fried the bastard. That’s what I’m going to tell myself when I go to bed after taking some Tums and hugging my teddy bear.

Those of you in my Monsters class may remember when we were asked the question “what is the scariest monster to you?” The Thing is that for me. And it still is.

World War Z: A Monster Book?

 

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I’ve had to sit on this one a few days and chew on it before attempting to write this post. First of all, this book is awesome. The sometimes-correct Natty Ultra has been begging me to read this for ever, since it’s his favorite book, and I just never quite got around to it. I was sure it was pretty good; he usually has excellent taste, but I’m just not really into zombies. He tells me, “It’s not really about zombies; it’s about the human factor.” And after reading it, I found he was absolutely right. Which brings me to my conundrum when writing about this book for a class on Monsters: are the monsters the stars of this book, enough for it to qualify being part of a class on Monsters?

Yes. And no.

(LOOK OUT! SPOILERS!)

I think the format of the book what was threw me at first, about whether this book was indeed, for lack of a better term, monster-y enough. It’s set up as a series of interviews of some key and not so key people that made it through World War Z. In his intro Max Brooks clearly states that his interviews were more about “the human factor” than anything else. It’s about the kinds of stories people want to hear about wars. And this is most definitely about a war. It’s a war not against other countries, but against people that we knew at one moment, changed forever into a danger that you cannot reason with, just destroy. But it’s still a war. And to me at least, it reads like a war novel.

Maybe part of the other problem I had is that with a lot of monster tales, often you get into the head of the monster. Of course with the trend of human-type monsters like vampires, the monster has enough of a brain for us to get into . Not so with zombies. Unless you have a unique case like Warm Bodies, you’re just not getting into the head of a zombie. And a lot of the survivors’ tales have to deal with the human “monsters” that inevitably crop up in this kind of scenario, just as much as the actual zombies. So you instantly ask yourself, “is this book about zombie monsters, or humans as monsters, or both?” And which monster features more prevalently?

The zombies in World War Z have enough classic elements to make them instantly familiar, but the setting in which they’re placed, and they way that they are used make them terrifying. These zombies are the slower kind, with some interviews talking about exploiting their slowness in order to get away. Essentially, you can outrun or even out walk a zombie (though I swear I read about them running somewhere in the beginning of the book, but I can’t seem to find it, so maybe I was hallucinating it. I did read much of it during the wee hours of the morning.). I think sheer numbers, and surprise, is what allowed the zombies to take over so drastically in the beginning. They were everywhere before people knew it. And if you live in a bustling metropolitan or even suburban area, how likely are you to be able to avoid all those dead people? It makes me actually be thankful for currently living where I do in East TN. I think about DE, and the stretch of 95 from Baltimore to NYC that is pretty much entirely civilization, shopping malls, towns and smaller cities all interconnected into the bigger pulsing cities, and I think why it would be apt for those places to be the first to be lost. You just couldn’t sneak through that many. And when one gets a whiff of you, it moans loud enough for the dead to hear, pun intended. There’s no running from the swarm.

"Let me in to  WalMart!"

Maybe I’m being a little controversial in saying that I don’t think this book is a monster book, or just only a monster book. It doesn’t need to be solely about the monsters in order to still be scary. I am not completely convinced that World War Z is enough of a monster book to be included next to stories that are completely, obviously about the monsters. World War Z, to me, is several kinds of books in one: a war novel, alternate history, survival horror, and yes, a monster book too. Whatever it is to you, you should still read it. In the end, whatever kind of book you think it is, it’s just a great read.

P.S. I purposely chose not to mention the movie in here, which is so drastically different from the book it really is its own creature. I think there are several good points to be made when comparing the two, and I would even go so far to say that the movie was more about the monsters than the book. But we’re talking about the book, so I’ll leave the movie for another post.

 

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I’m not afraid o’ no zombie!

P.P.S. Brad Pitt is good at fighting zombies. He can be on my survival team.