Onyx reviews: Snowblind
by Christopher Golden
Snowblind is a cold book. It takes place during two blizzards
separated by twelve years, and Golden does a convincing job of conjuring up
chills: both physical ones related to the weather and psychological ones because
the storms that hit the small New England town of Coventry bring with them more
than snow, ice and wind.
In the opening chapters, Golden introduces a
host of characters whose lives change forever when a snowstorm sweeps through Coventry
one night, cutting the town off from the rest of the world. Some people won't survive and others will
go missing. There's hardly a person in town who isn't touched by tragedy and
loss. The deaths are bad enough, but how so many people could simply disappear
is a mystery they all have to live with.
A dozen years later, another major storm is
forecast, which unsettles everyone who endured the previous blizzard. People
start behaving erratically and everyone has a short fuse. The dynamics of many
relationships have changed in the intervening years. Families were ripped apart. Couples who seemed to have
everything going for them are fighting. People blame
themselves for not being there for those who were lost: a husband who didn't
make it home to his wife, a son who wasn't there for his mother, a brother who
saw his sibling carried away by something in the storm.
guilt and bad memories aren't the only things responsible for the odd behavior
of certain characters, though. Something larger is at play, and the other
residents of Coventry will have to figure out what's going on and discover ways
of surviving the impending storm. Souls may be at risk, and the foe seems as
insidious and dangerous as any of the more familiar tropes of
horror. Acts of heroism and sacrifice will be called for as the temperature
plummets and the snow accumulates.
There are a lot of characters packed into
this relatively brief novel. It will undoubtedly draw comparisons to books like 'Salem's
Lot, and it even features a blurb from King on the cover. It's rare to
encounter a book that might have better if it were longer: a little more time
spent with the characters before their lives are destroyed might have been
helpful in garnering more sympathy and reader identification with them.
explains the origin of the entities within the snow, nor why they only plague
Coventry. It's an interesting decision, and perhaps a wise one. He doesn't even
explicitly brand them as evil. In a sense, they are like wild animals
doing whatever is necessary for their survival. Though they are certainly adversaries
for the human characters, they are no more worthy of blame for being what they
are than a pack of wolves or a swarm of piranhas. The people of Coventry aren't
being punished for some implied failing or weakness. This isn't a great moral battle
between good and evil. It's simply a contest for survival.
The book could be
described as a ghost story or a novel of possession. It includes all of these
facets and more. Some of its more interesting aspects deal with the way the
victims of the long-ago storm reassert themselves.
Snowblind builds to
a multi-front battle against the creatures that come with the storm. In some
conflicts, it seems like there's no defense against these entities—they can get at the
residents of Coventry through even the smallest gaps in a house. In others,
though, they're relatively easy to outrun or defeat. They possess
teeth, certainly, but not the ineluctable fangs of vampires.
The war is over
almost as quickly as it starts. Here, too, the book might have been a little
longer. When exactly does a blizzard end? In Coventry, there's apparently an
on/off switch that says now there's a storm...and now there isn't. This is
probably meant to give the crisis a definite concluding point, a deadline the
townspeople need to attain, but it feels artificial.
On the whole, though, Snowblind,
Goldn's first horror novel in a decade, is a book best read with the lights
turned down low and the wind howling around the eaves outside. The final
paragraphs may remind readers of Pet Sematary. Chilling, indeed.
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