Sunday, March 25, 2012

"In people, they can move around and do whatever they want..."

"Her muddy brown eyes swung back to Todd. "They can feed." ~Snow, by Ronald Malfi (2011)



Little known fact about me, unless you know me well...I hate the cold. And I'm not a huge fan of snow. It seems no matter how many layers of clothing I put on, once my fingers and toes are chilled I''m utterly miserable. And yes, I've gone to do those 'fun' winter things like sledding and skiing, but the icy white stuff and me...well, we're arch enemies that's for sure.

In the book "Snow" (the largest monster portrayed) is exactly that, it's the ultimate enemy. It causes  delays and wrecks frozen havoc. As for me, I prefer heat any day or time of the year. Even when I was in Kuwait, suffering the blazing sun of August, I preferred the sand and fiery sky to an atmosphere drenched with cold. I don't know why, but that's always how it's been. Snow and cold are my number one enemies in life.

But in this story, the snow also serves to conceal a host of monsters in the little town of Woodson. Monsters whose arms can turn into sharp harvesters of the soul. My number one enemy fosters zombie-like creatures controlled by cognizant icy crystals of death. They slash, they hack, and have a bloody good time under the gray clouds and layered blankets of snow.

I enjoyed Richard Malfi's overall writing style, however the beginning of this book dragged on too much for me and I had a hard time getting into it until Chapter 7. It took me several starts to finally get going with the story. Add the fact that secondary characters start to die in this piece, and I suddenly knew which characters are wearing the "red shirt," and which were gonna survive, so much of the mystery of the plot was ruined for me. Other things that tend to bug me in writing are overuse of metaphors/similes/analogies and inconsistencies. Particularly in Chapter 10, there were a ton of similes and metaphors that I noticed and some inconsistencies throughout the novel.

Examples of noted inconsistencies:
Chapter Nine, Kate goes into the bathroom and actually gets hot water to come out of the facet. This wouldn't happen if the electrical died, unless it's a solar water heater, or maybe gas.
Chapter Ten, Kate goes for ammunition while Todd starts picking out guns and they're not communicating on the type of firearm they're going to get. Sure, they decide on handguns, but different caliber handguns require different types of ammunition. The story makes it sound like any ammo will do. Later Kate asks about getting the right kind of bullets, but they never have time to sort it out, and as the story goes along it always seems as if they have just the right kind of ammo needed.

After having read "30 Days of Night," "I Am Legend" and "World War Z," and having recently watched "The Thing" and "Alien," I confess I'm a little jaded at this point in my reading. I'm sick of post-apocalyptic tales, cold winter scenes and zombies. After a while, these themed stories seem to run together in an endless racetrack of similar plots and settings.

Don't get me wrong. I would definitely read a sequel to this story if Richard Malfi decided to write it, or if he writes another novel in the future. He's a really good writer and incorporates some awesome description in his prose. But the next story I read will be anywhere but in a freezing/isolated setting, and I'm not gonna go near zombies, vampires and werewolves for a while. There's more to horror than icy wastelands and traditional monsters (even if they have been reinvented and seem totally new).

A recent manuscript review by a friend and crit partner of mine likened my own writing to "splatterpunk," a sub-genre of horror I didn't know existed and it's the first time I've ever heard the term (Thank you, Joe Borrelli). In between mandatory novel reads for MFA requirements, I'm going to read some more Clive Barker, and some Richard Laymon and Edward Lee (many thanks to my friend Chris Shearer for the suggestions). For anyone else out there who has some good SP for me to grind and gulp down, please share your favorite authors/SP style novels. Until then, I think I'll go back and read Dante's Inferno...just to warm up a little and thaw out from wandering the wastelands of white. One thing is for sure, just for a little while, I'm going to avoid reading anything that's remotely cool.

~Cin


18 comments:

  1. Try to find a copy of the anthology Splatterpunk, edited by Paul M. Sammon. There are some really amazing stories in it--I've read it a couple of times, and I'm getting the urge to read it again. The second volume isn't quite as good.

    I wasn't a big fan of Snow, and not just because I too hate the cold! For me, the gender bullshit got very tiring very quickly. I questioned the hot water thing as well, and good catch on the ammo.

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    1. Thanks for the info, Jen. Much appreciated!

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  2. I love the snow! I grew up in Erie, though, and learned to either love it or be depressed three-fourths of the year. I also have a sneaking suspicion that I have reverse seasonal affective disorder, which means I am an unhappy camper when the sun comes out--I also sneeze a lot do to something called photic sneeze reflex.

    I noted the hot water, too. I thought about this, though, and remember the police station in Walking Dead had hot water because the station had a separate generator--but they aren't in the police station in chapter nine. However, I also recalled a similar situation I was in. The first year I lived in Nebraska, we had a terrible ice storm that knocked our power out for almost two weeks. Before we gave up hope and temporarily moved in with friends who owned a generator, we were able to take hot baths. Hot water heaters tend to be gas and gas goes through underground pipes. The pilot light is usually electric, but if that doesn't go out, you're fine. Of course, when my roof started leaking icy water directly into the shower, the hot baths were ruined.

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    1. Wow. I'd wouldn't live a year in Erie. I lived 3 years in South Dakota, and winters were hell. I walked to work, and remember my eyelashes freezing and having to buy a ski mask to protect me face for the walk (about a mile). After that, I swore I'd never live below the Mason Dixon Line. :) I grew up with hot water heaters, and definitely know what you mean, but still, the hot water was suspect in the novel. Would have been nice if lightly explained, or if they were even more miserable because there was no hot water. More believable. Thanks for the comments!

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    1. By the way, I found some cool pictures of the similar situation I was in: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/gid/?n=icestormgallery
      http://www.jonschrage.com/thestormcellar/images/katie-7.jpg

      Actually, that second one is from the next year in Kansas, I believe. But, we were dealing with the same thing all over when I was in Nebraska. Fun stuff...

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  4. *wink*

    I will warn you away from Laymon, though. He's kind of a creeper.

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    1. Thanks, Creature-Man. :) Saw him at Horror-Con, but didn't get to meet him. Met Rick Hautula though, and shared some GREAT cigar time. John Skipp, Jeff Strand...really nice guys. :)

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    2. Cin, I hope you didn't see Richard Laymon at Horror-Con. He's been dead for 12 years. That'd be something if you did.

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    3. Chris, he looked amazingly well! Just kidding. :). Blonde moment. I meant Joe Landsdale. Please dont tell me he's dead too or Im really in trouble. :)

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  5. I actually like the cold part about snow. It's refreshing after pretend winters down here where the temperature never dips below 40 degrees. What freaks me out most about the snow is the way it covers everything until the only thing that seems to exist is the snow.

    And you make a great point about the snowy isolation. When I next get some free writing time (to be read: time to write something besides my thesis), I'm going to play around with different settings in short stories. Of course something crazy is going to happen in the isolated cold. But can't something just as insane happen in an ordinary place? Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Rhonda, your mentioning of everything white freaking you out made me think of something that does disturb me about snow. I actually like the pristine and new look snow give the world when it first covers everything up; I'm bothered by it when it sticks around two weeks and turns into a brown and grey mush mixed with dirt, gravel, and who knows what else. In Alaska, I was told not to eat the snow because it can even contain parasites, and a guide pointed out pink snow, which harbors algae. In this light, snow seems to magnify the invisible grit and gore the world regularly contains but is neglected.

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  7. Great post. I like how the snow wasn’t just a thematic element but also a creature. Although I think we’re opposites. I hate the heat. I’ve been to Kuwait too, and I remember thinking “this is what Hell is like.” Or at least what the inside of an oven feels like. Maybe he could write a companion book call Sand.

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    1. Cody,

      Funny. Yeah, Kuwait was okay. Better than when I visited Baffin Island (brrrr). :) I think you're one to something with "Sand." :)

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  8. If you want splatterpunk, you need to read Jack Ketchum. The Girl Next Door or The Lost would be good places to start.

    I'm actually the opposite with the snow. I hated the hot and humid weather of Florida. I don't mind the snow, but I am a skier.

    The ammo thing did strike me as odd, but I was wondering why they weren't getting incendiary devices. I thought they might get 12 gauge shotguns and load them with flares cartridges.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, J. I'll try to fit in some J.K. before the next semester! :)

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  9. I suppose the post-apocalyptic setting does get a bit repetitive, we've certainly seen it a lot in this class. We've also seen a lot of people becoming monsters, so maybe we should just shrug and say 'must be a convention' so when we don't use it our work would stand out all the more.

    Yeah, the shotgun ammo was a bit odd... of course dragon's breath ammo is illegal in the United States, that would probably have been ideal for the situation (Russian Incendiary Shotgun Shells... nasty things).

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