Written by: Matt Molgaard
I’ve got to kick things off by hurling a massive thank you! at Brian. It seems I constantly cover works (be it literature of some sort, film, sports or music) that demand I walk on egg shells in order to give readers an idea of what the story is truly about without injecting multiple spoilers into my summation. Dead of Winter allows me to be vague, yet provide a really solid outline of what the tale is about. And, despite my lack of intricate expression in regards to the details of the synopsis, I believe readers will want to pick this one up based on this review alone (I’m not stroking my own ego by implying I’m a fabulous writer, this book just… really works).
This period piece drops readers into the Canadian wilderness where a pair of forts have been overrun by insanity of some sort. Is it simply a severe case of cabin fever, or is it something much darker? I’ll give this much away: it’s much darker. Something hunts within snowy torrents, and it’s big, mean and packs the wallop of a mac truck barreling down the highway at 70 mph. But, this beast isn’t the only loose seam in this tightly knit – yet isolated – world. People are going mad, cannibalism ensues. Possession, monsters both human and otherwise and a conflict between religion and science help muster a noteworthy impact as the pages of Dead of Winter fly by rather quickly.
Brian’s work actually reminds me a bit of John Everson’s, sans the prominent eroticism. The narrative is delivered in very straight forward fashion, yet this isn’t a piece of work aimed at the stereotypical layman, ignorant to all that unravels around him. There’s a bit of history within the pages, and Moreland’s words flow smooth and articulate. Dead of Winter is a well written piece of work, and a fine addition to the horror genre in general.
Quite a bit of the novel’s enjoyment value leans on pronounced character development, which, in retrospect is a bit surprising, given the frantic nature with which the chaos unfolds. There isn’t much downtime to be taken in here; it’s a whole lot of violence and mayhem crammed into a few hundred pages, and it’s off and running from the jump. Moreland is an unforgiving author who casts aside regard for taboos (you’ll know exactly what I mean within the first quarter of this novel) and hits readers right in the face with a vicious blend of physical and emotional torment.
The novel’s hero, Inspector Tom Hatcher, is a likeable personality: father, man of the law, noble despite his relatively frequent drinking habits. He’s embraceable, and he carries the book, for a sizeable amount of the other characters tread a fine line between decency and antagonist. Those who don’t seem to be painted on a mural of neutral colors, but they offer forth flawed mindsets (who doesn’t?) that intentionally keep readers from completely dedicating themselves to their cause or existence. Hatcher, as well as an Indian woman with a battered soul (who serves as the story’s master tracker), Anicka are the true “good guys” here, and while both suffer some issues of their own, they’ve both endured (in the past as well as live time) more than enough to draw sympathy to their plights. Their connection is unmistakable and detectable early, which makes forming the idea of these two growing close, and fighting for the same cause (which really just comes down to survival) very believable, regardless of the differences in their social status (we’re talking a white man and an Indian woman, in a time when equality was about as valuable as a cow patty).
The oft-subtle (and sometimes far from it) rivalry between religion, superstition and science is fantastic. Moreland outlines each belief system from an unbiased standpoint, which really leaves readers to rely on their own personal opinion when siding with one personality or another, which in turn creates a few characters one may love, while another hates, while perhaps another is completely indifferent. They’re dynamic in their petition. I’m not sure Brian really gives a damn about hurting anyone’s feelings, but he approaches the story with an open mind all the same, enabling readers to think for themselves (there’s almost a sense of tangible interactivity here), ultimately creating a piece of art that could please numerous individuals for completely different reasons.
To be honest, I’d actually like to spill a few details here, as some are extremely powerful, and would surely enhance curiosity, but I’ll refrain. Dead of Winter is a novel that should be sought out. It’s not a piece of perfection, but it’s a damn fine representation of Moreland’s skills, and it’s gratifying on more levels than one. I can say with certainty right now, that I’ll read this book again in the future. That alone speaks testament.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Note: if I wasn’t on a half point system, this would have easily been about a 3.9)