Book Review: Snowblind by Christopher Golden
In the small town of Coventry, Massachusetts, falling snow does not bring a winter wonderland. In a devastating blizzard, eighteen people from Coventry die tragically through accidents or simply getting lost in the blinding storm. Twelve years later, another blizzard is on the way — but heavy snows and winds are not all that’s coming to town. As the storm builds, the dead begin to return. What do they want? And who will survive this time around?
In Christopher Golden’s Snowblind, the darkening skies are ominous, and it quickly becomes clear that no one is safe. For the love of all things great and good, stay inside, people of Coventry! But even staying indoors offers no guarantees against the storm: There are bad things out there in the wind and snow, and all they need is one small crack, one little draft, to slip inside the house and come for you.
Reminiscent of the scope of a Stephen King novel, in the early chapters we meet a sprawling array of characters, including police officers and school teachers, auto mechanics and thrill-seeking teens, and children just old enough to want to hide their fears, but young enough to know that the faces they see out in the storm are real.
The first part of the book, set during the first blizzard, is excellent. We don’t know what’s coming — but it’s clear that whatever it is, it’ll be bad. As we meet the characters and then see them, one after another, head out into the snow, the tension builds. Something is out there, and it’s deadly. Reading these chapters, I was on the edge of my seat — and despite living far away from any hint of winter weather, I couldn’t help jumping a bit whenever I heard the wind blow outside.
About a third of the way in, the action jumps to twelve years later, and here I felt the story sagged a bit. It’s interesting to see what’s become of the survivors of the earlier blizzard and how they’ve moved on — or not — with their lives. Children have grown into damaged young adults; a young woman who’d lost her love is now bitter, middle-aged, and prone toward overindulging on her nightly glasses of wine; a couple has never quite gotten past their guilt and memories from years earlier; and a rookie cop is now a detective who swears he won’t let another kid die on his watch. And yet, there’s quite a lot of build-up before the new storm arrives, and the action grinds more or less to a halt in places in favor of exploring the characters’ emotional states.
The final storm and conclusion isn’t quite as scary as I would have liked. The set-up is terrific, but the explanation of what really happened in the storm and the characters’ struggles to survive don’t convey quite the level of terror that a book like this really needs. Perhaps the climax is too scattered: because we’re tracking so many storylines, there’s no one scene or focus that really shouts “this is it!”
I liked Snowblind very much, and thought the initial set-up and early scenes were excellent — just the right mix of character introduction, impending threat, and disastrous outcome. Because there are no answers at that point, just the sense that something VERY BAD is out in the blizzard, it’s scary indeed to read. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn’t quite live up to the earlier section, and the conclusion didn’t feel like a very satisfying pay-off, fright-wise.
Of course, I had the benefit of reading Snowblind from the comfort of my warm home, on a day with clear blue, sunny skies. Had I been reading it with all of this month’s winter storms brewing outside, I might not have maintained quite such a level of calm. If you read Snowblind, stay warm, and watch out for drafts! And if you hear scratching on your roof, don’t worry: It’s PROBABLY just the wind.
Author: Christopher Golden
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: January 21, 2014
Source: Review copy courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley