A song of ice, sans fire
THIS ghost story reads like it was meant to be adapted into an event miniseries. The flawed/troubled characters audiences will just love, the shadowy threat that comes upon a small Massachusetts town during a winter storm, the haunting loss suffered as a result of this, the Healing Time, and the sudden re-emergence of the Very Bad Things.
And yes, I’ve capitalised the appropriate words in keeping with the big blurb on the book’s front cover by none other than Stephen King, who calls it “the REAL DEAL”. Which would be very true if he’s referring to a TV deal.
It’s not that Snowblind is not deserving of some praise or of being turned into a three-night television event, starring a mix of up-and-coming stars and veteran TV luminaries. Just that it plays things very safe.
If you like your scary tales brutal and edgy, or appreciate the didn’t-see-that-coming excesses of (for example) Simon Clark or Brian Keene, well, you won’t be getting any of that here.
What you will get in Snowblind are some nicely-sketched characters, some of them even likeable ones, and you will come to cheer for these folks, that they get through the nightmare. The last 50 or so pages are whiplash-inducing page-turners, as the story’s principal players try to do just that. In fact, the whole of Snowblind moves at a fairly fast pace, with very few passages that beg you to skip past.
The prologue tells of one dark, wintry night when something accompanies a severe storm to the town of Coventry. People die that night. Some even disappear. Bizarre and terrifying figures are glimpsed in the blizzard. And then, just like that, it’s over.
Twelve years later, the survivors have picked up their lives ... mostly ... and are preparing for another cold season. As is customary of characters in spooky tales like this, they can sense something “not quite right” about the approaching snowstorms. Winter is coming, and all that.
Since that fateful night, any snowstorm is enough to give more than just temperature-related chills to the folks who lost people. This year, however, it’s compounded by strange happenings – when people they know (and sometimes, don’t know) come up to them and show an uncanny knowledge of events from a dozen years previously.
Struggling musician/electrician T.J. Farrelly takes notice when his 11-year-old daughter Grace suddenly starts talking like an adult ... and one eerily familiar to him, at that. Troubled police detective Joe Keenan, who witnessed several deaths that night, is suddenly taunted by a rookie cop who knows a little too much about what went down in the snow.
And police photographer Jake Schapiro – who saw a creature straight out of a nightmare claim his younger brother Isaac’s life back then – is stunned when a young boy winds up in his home, talking and acting just like his slain sibling.
It’s obvious from these and other similar scenes playing out in town that the spirits of those claimed by the storm have somehow come back. As their purpose becomes clear, and the nasty stuff portended by their return starts to happen, the book picks up a bit and barrels toward that page-turning finale mentioned earlier.
I am only familiar with Golden’s work from his Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Hellboy novels – oh, and his novelisation of the Peter Jackson King Kong movie – but Snowblind just didn’t grab me enough to put me on to his other stuff.
It’s half a fully-realised story; its key characters, flawed and broken as some are, make you actually give a darn about them, and that’s usually the hardest part. But it doesn’t go anywhere with its core premise, or present anything truly horrifying. Rather than dash out into the darkness and lead the reader on a scary trek into the unknown, it seems to prefer the secure confines of familiar (and thus predictable) ghost yarns.