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.