Quote of the Moment

"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Snow...Or Is That Really A Monster?

SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read Snow there are spoilers in this essay.

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As I read Snow, I found myself instantly pulled in--there was excellent character development and great description of the monsters. Unfortunately, about halfway through, I grew disappointed. There were several parts of the second half that just didn't work for me, especially the epilogue.

Malfi does a nice job using the prologue at the beginning to pull the reader in, to let us know that something is going on in the town of Woodson. This prologue allows chapter one to start more slowly and interweave character development as well as get our protagonist heading toward the town. The set-up here, with describing the men taken over by the monsters, also leads the reader to a knowing moment when Todd, Kate, Nan, and Fred come across Eddie wandering alone in the snow. "A man in a black- and red-checkered coat and high boots, mid-forties, bearded, pale--" (32). That last word, pale, sent bells off in my head, knowing that Eddie is no longer truly human, a perfect echo from the prologue. And that suspicion is confirmed when they find Eddie's "missing" daughter, Emily--the girl has no face. I thought that was wonderfully done.

The character development in this novel is also well done. Todd is our main protagonist, and at the beginning he is trying to reach his son for Christmas. He doesn't want to let his son down again, like he's done so many times in the past. This makes him a sympathetic character. Even his flaws--the gambling, mainly--cause his character to come to life. So we're rooting for him the entire time he's faced with the monsters.

Speaking of the monsters, I thought they were wonderfully described and fleshed out. "Like a puzzle piece sliding out of position, a section of snow seemed to unhinge itself from the rest, a compact little vacuum of white filaments sliding into the wind" (100). The characters never know if what's covering the ground is real snow or the monsters themselves. And, of course, these snow monsters can burrow into human beings, and after killing the host, use the corpses as puppets. They are also able to pull from the person's memories and experiences. Another great, creepy monster.

The scene where things started to unravel for me is where Shawna, the point-of-view character from the prologue, meets her demise. She holes up in the basement of a house for the night, her leg wound worse from recent incidents, and in the morning wakes to find the human puppets of the monsters clogging the upstairs. There is nothing peaceful about her death--she is overrun and devoured, with no one around to help. Now, I'm all for the monsters picking off characters one by one, but this death left me feeling empty. I really think that may be because I was hoping she would be made into a puppet and Todd and Kate would have to face her before the end of the book. Shawna's death scene is the last we see of her.

Nearing the end of Snow, disappointed with no reappearance of Shawna, many incongruities showed up, in my opinion. There's a scene where Kate takes a hammer to this slug-like thing. What the hell is that about? Is it the snow monster's form when it's not in the cold? If so, that needed to be established either earlier in the book or followed up before the end.

Todd is supposed to be the hero of the book. He finally contacts help outside the town. This act doesn't make him a hero, though, since the help doesn't reach them until the monsters have already left. Bruce, a minor character and the true hero, blows up a gas station, killing himself in the process, to kill many of the snow monsters. After this, the monsters decide it's too much of a hassle, funnel back up into some portal in the sky, and vanish. We find out later this happened in several small towns in the Midwest. Why exactly did they all leave, across the many towns, at the same time? It seemed weird that an explosion in one town would cause the monsters to leave all the towns. And why exactly weren't they slowly spreading to neighboring towns if they were there to feed? Once they ran out of humans to eat in Woodson (true there were a few people left in hiding, but not many), why didn't they move to the closest town over to find more food?

I also would have liked to see Kate give Todd that dollar she owed him at the end of the novel. Even though, I felt like through the whole novel, he had learned his lesson with gambling, yet in the end he gambles whether they will be able to reach help or not. That wonderful characterization at the beginning tasted a bit stale when Todd bet Kate that buck.

And finally, the epilogue ruined it for me. Eddie and his supposed daughter, whom I mentioned before, are seen driving across the country in a truck. It's that "they're still out there" moment, which I could have done without because it made me wonder why Eddie and Emily are so different that they weren't sucked back up through the portal like all the rest. And what is up with the band-aids?

So, yes, I felt Snow had a good start with a great set-up, a wonderful monster, and nice characterization. As you can see from my endless string of questions in a couple paragraphs above, though, the end left me feeling like everything wasn't thought out well enough. There were too many inconsistencies that pulled me out of the world and shook my suspension of disbelief.

Works Cited

Malfi, Ronald. Snow. New York: Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc., 2010.


  1. I loved this book. It was my favorite of the semester. I agree about Malfi's excellent characterization and writing. For me, however, Shawna's death scene was fantastic in a horrible way. You make a good suggestion with the idea of them having to face her, but honestly, I like it just as it was; it was so abrupt and brutal, and the image of all the townsfolk crammed in the hallway with their heads bowed was way, way freaky. I love your suggestion about the dollar bill. That should have happened.

  2. Thanks for pointing out the point about the bet. I didn't even think of it and his bad habit. I have to admit I was torn about the way Shawna went and not sure if Malfi's or your suggestion is better. But it did point out the reality of the nests that Tully spoke of.
    The hammer and the slug didn't ring with me either. I wanted her to have a candle that she dropped and it went up in smoke, as well as the candle.
    As for the epilogue. The bastards going to cut a new face on Emily. How else can she eat? Just my take on it.

  3. Mmmm. We could also jump to a new Saw movie as he brutally cuts her a new face. I loved your idea about the dollar and have to agree it would have tied it all together.Great review!

  4. Interesting take on this! I didn't mind Shawna's death -- for me it heightened the intensity and made the danger that much more real. I wonder how things would have been different your way! :)

  5. It really bummed me out that Shawna never made a reappearance. And I as well, think that there needed to be a little more futher explanation with the monster's disappearance at the end, and the slug creature. All in all, I wasn't to thrilled with the ending... I felt like I had to many unresolved questions... kind of like in Breeding Ground!

  6. I agree -- she should have paid him the dollar.

  7. I think you and I pretty much agree that Shawna's death was poorly used. You are right, she could have returned from the "dead" and gone on a rampage for the evil side.
    I wondered the same thing about Eddie and his daughter. How did they survive when all the other monsters went back into the mother ship or where ever they went?
    I agree, good start, poor end. This was the last book I read and for some reason the hardest to remember. I guess it didn't stick with me as much as some other books did.
    T. Marcus

  8. @Ronald Malfi - Maybe in the next book? =)

  9. I love that you put a spoiler alert on here...I haven't read the book, but I know two lovable people are going to croak because a certain someone spit out their names...I'll still read the book, though. :)