As Ronald Malfi’s SNOW opens, Todd Curry is stuck at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport during a horrible snowstorm. He’d been on his way from Manhattan to Des Moines in order to see his son and ex-wife for Christmas, but as flights continued to be delayed and canceled, Todd decides to rent a car and drive the rest of the way to Des Moines. Sharing the car with three other waylaid passengers, the quartet drives into the heart of the storm.
Shortly after crossing into Iowa, the group comes across Eddie Clement, a man who has had a car accident and whose daughter wandered away while he was trying to fix his automobile. As they drive around looking for Eddie’s daughter, Todd’s rental car suddenly dies outside the small town of Woodson. The group decides to ditch the car and walk to town in hopes of finding help. As they trek down the road they find Eddie’s daughter, but something is very wrong. The child has been wandering aimlessly…because she has no face. Reunited, Eddie and his daughter run off through the woods, but not before asking Todd to “join them.”
More confused than ever, the quartet finishes its journey into town. Once there, they find more than they reckoned for. The power is out, cell phones are not working, cars will not start…and the only hint of townsfolk is the various gut piles they find in the town square. As they try to come to terms with what they’re seeing, the group comes under attack by a zombie-like creature. As the monster sprints toward the group, a young girl shoots it in the head, then herds everyone into a nearby store. What follows is a fight for survival as the small band of people battles the creatures created by the snow.
At its most basic, SNOW is a zombie survival novel. That being said, Malfi does a good job of separating his story from the glut of other options in this category. The snowstorm is the genesis of the infestation, making the setting extremely unsettling because there is essentially nowhere to hide. If a window is cracked or a vent is open or there’s a gap under a door, the snow will find its victims. When it does, the snow materializes into scythe-like arms that stab into people’s shoulderblades, allowing the malignant force to treat the host like a puppet while it wreaks havoc. Malfi’s descriptions of the snow scythes (as well as the aforementioned faceless children) are creepy and effective. And, of course, the story is action-packed as the characters continually fight against the creatures and try to safely leave town.
My biggest gripe with SNOW is that the characters are expendable. Early on in the story some characters were being developed, then suddenly died during a battle. This pattern continued throughout SNOW, causing me to stop caring about all of the secondary characters because I knew they weren’t going to be around for very long. Now, is it realistic that lots of people would die in a situation like this? Probably. But after I started disconnecting from the characters, it made an already dark story even more bleak for me. The other thing that worked against SNOW is that it is survival horror, a topic I’ve read all too much in the last year of doing reviews. Now, that’s not Malfi’s fault. In fact, he’s to be commended for adding some fresh ideas to the subgenre. But I’m starting to be worn down by these stories…even one like SNOW, which is better than the vast majority of other survival horror novels out there.
All that being said, I enjoyed my time with SNOW. I read it in just a couple of sittings and was entertained throughout. And, if Malfi writes a sequel (which is a possibility based on SNOW’s conclusion), I’ll definitely grab a copy to see where the storyline goes next.
SNOW was published as a mass-market paperback by Leisure Books at a cover price of $7.99.
(6 out of 10)