Christopher Golden’s new novel Snowblind reads like Stephen King light. Here is the New England setting, complete with a town past its prime following the departure of the main local industry some years previously. Here is the ensemble cast of all-American characters. Here is the strange event that is about to impinge upon the lives of said characters without warning or explanation. It is perhaps, therefore, not surprising that that King himself gives the book its cover quote, endorsing the contents within as “the real deal”.
In Snowblind, we visit the town of Coventry as the worst winter storm in living memory is sweeping through, depositing huge amounts of snow and blowing it into thick drifts that block roads and bring down power lines. Few souls venture out into the blizzard, and many of those that do never return home again, leaving those left behind consumed with guilt and fear of extreme winter weather. Joe Keenan, a rookie cop, never forgives his failure to save the lives of a boy out sledding and his father, Carl Wexlar, who just seems to vanish into the night while Joe gives first aid to the boy. TJ, an electrician who spends his evenings playing music in local restaurants and bars, abandons his promise to check on his elderly mother when the chance to spend the night with restaurant owner Ella offers a more interesting prospect. The mechanic Doug loses his wife to the storm when he opts to spend the evening with some drinking buddies and returns home to find her frozen to death in their garden. Most prominent of all is Allie, a local teacher whose son Isaac falls to his death through his bedroom window and then her lover, Niko, vanishes into the snow when he tries to go for help.
Twelve years later, and our characters have repaired their lives to a greater or lesser extent. Mrs Wexlar has remarried, but Doug has not, instead falling into a life of petty crime that he feels his miserable life justifies. TJ and Ella have a daughter, Grace, who was conceived on that night, but their marriage is slowing falling apart. Joe has moved up to become a detective, but is haunted by every missing or injured child he comes across. Allie has never let herself fall in love again. A second major storm is now heading towards Coventry, and strange things start to happen as the snow approaches. Reports of ghosts flood into the police station. Grace starts to act out of character. Niko’s daughter Miri is phoned by her dead father. A small boy turns up at the door of Allie’s surviving son Jake and claims to be his dead brother Isaac, awakening Jake’s childhood memories of Isaac appearing to be pulled from his open window rather than simply falling.
Snowblind is pitched as a horror novel, which did initially put me off reading it, but I think “thriller” would perhaps be a better classification of it. Let me be clear that while some parts of the plot are quite tense, this is in no way a scary story. To return to the Stephen King analogies, if novels such as The Shining are 18 certificate, than Snowblind is more of a 12A. It is a good book to read at home on a cold winter’s night, but it will in no way give you nightmares. I got quite swept up into the early set up of the story, but I found the ending – and in particular the lack of any real explanation about what had happened to Coventry – to be a bit disappointing. A good book, yes, just not a great one.
Recommended for library reading, but not really worth the £13.99 price tag.
Snowblind by Christopher Golden
Published by Headline, January 2014
With thanks to the publishers for providing me with this review copy.
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