Written by: James Keen
“The easy thing would be to stick that rifle in my mouth and pull the trigger. After all, it’s not like I’m going to get out of here.” -‘Snow’. Ronald Malfi.
There’s a moment in Ronald Malfi’s splendidly enthralling horror novel, ‘Snow’ where a character utters the line, “Real Invasion Of The Body Snatchers bullshit”, a quote that perhaps sums up the best and worst of the author’s intentions. The writer has crafted an enormously entertaining book that comprises a dynamic -if well-worn – plot, loaded it with characters that are intriguing and, for the most part smart, and delivered a reading experience that can perhaps be equated with that of a favourite meal with all that that familiarity may entail; it satisfies your hunger, spikes your energy levels but it’s all too redolent of something you’ve consumed many times before.
After a feverishly intense and violent opening in a small town convenience store that capably sets the tone for what is to follow, Malfi switches locations to the weather-battered Chicago O’Hare airport and introduces his principally demure ‘everyman’; Todd Curry, a divorced young-ish lawyer with a shameful secret and a desperate wish to re-unite with his seven year old son, Justin, in Des Moines. Curry’s flight is cancelled as a huge snowstorm moves in and effectively closes the airport, and it’s then that Curry strikes up a flirtatious rapport with the nubile Kate Jansen – a woman similarly anxious to re-unite with her upwardly mobile fiance. Along with the retired couple Fred and Nan Wilkinson they venture off in the last four wheel drive rental available as the ambient conditions worsen and the night closes in.
It’s not long after that Malfi’s likeable and adroitly described party encounters a dark figure on a treacherously icy road, a barely visible signpost for the town of ‘Woodson’ and the discovery of a ‘lost’ little girl who “had no face.” From this point onwards Malfi builds a compelling and disturbing narrative; his prose is addictive and the author has a genuine knack for creating an almost palpable sense of dread that ensures the reader is engaged and apprehensively primed for his plot’s chilling tendencies.
Those readers appreciative of such genre offerings as Steve Niles’s ’30 Days Of Night’ and in particular the John Carpenter helmed movie, ‘The Fog’ may prematurely blanch at the route Malfi takes with his story, infused as it is with many of the characteristics of those two atmospheric and creepy milestones, but it quickly becomes apparent that Malfi is not merely copying from these but expanding and admirably attempting to create his own mythology. It’s the work of an author who is interested in exploring the ideas of isolation, desperation and the human desire for survival against seemingly insurmountable probabilities. The result is at times an awkward mix of the obviously affectionate homage and the entertaining though flawed extrapolation and reinterpretation of those conceits; this is a book for readers who are content to indulge a writer who is thoroughly enamoured of those standards.
While Malfi’s narrative is chock-full of some of the horror genre’s cultural echoes, it’s the gradual overloading of these concepts that threatens to undermine his otherwise involving plot. Towards the book’s tense, page-turning climax this reviewer experienced more than a few instances of disconnection with the text, primarily because of the ‘kitchen-sink’ approach the author implements. Overall, this is a thrilling novel replete with copious amounts of brain-shredding, body-morphing gore along with judiciously placed incidents of endearing humour. Malfi does well to give his characters a believable -if sometimes cliched – back-story that facilitates much needed empathy with the events that unfold around them. Put simply, you genuinely care about Malfi’s fictional personalities and when the inevitable fatalities occur they’re generally not flippant and for the most part emotionally affecting. This is a book that demands to be read in one sitting, preferably late at night, though perhaps not during an encroaching snowstorm.
The musician Ian Anderson once commented, “Talent borrows, genius steals, shit copies.” Ronald Malfi certainly falls into the first category as far this reviewer is concerned.
Grab your copy right here!