Snow by Ronald Malfi: Horror Done Right

Snow by Ronald Malfi is probably my all-time favorite book from this reading class. This semester, I have struggled through most of the novels and looked forward to the short story/movie assignments. Snow, however, was different. To put things in perspective, the novel runs about 322 pages in paperback (I read it on the kindle app of my iPad) and I finished it in just two sittings.

When I started Snow I was wary. The story begins in O’Hare international airport, with a delayed flight, a slightly flirtatious conversation at a bar, and a fat man making a bet. In short, it begins unremarkably, with not much to hook us. Something about Malfi’s style really reached me and drew me in though, and I read 55% of the book in one night. (A decision I regretted the next morning). Malfi writes this book in an honest style. He doesn’t try to create drama with his language or try to impress his vocabulary on the reader. No, this is a book for the masses, and anyone could pick it up without a problem.

The plot of Snow deals with the classic isolationism of the horror genre. The protagonist, Todd, hitches a ride with Katie, who is unhappily engaged, and Fred and Nan Wilkinson, an older couple. The book takes place over roughly two days, during which, a terrible storm has grounded the planes, so Todd cannot get home in time to see his son for Christmas. In what seems to be a stroke of reckless genius, the four of them rent a car to drive to Des Moines, Iowa. This is where the story really begins.

The car breaks down, the group encounters several people who seem “slightly off,” and a child with a melted face (just go with it, read it if you’r really that interested.) Things quickly become clear that something terribly wrong has happened, and after meeting Shawna, a young woman holed up in a convenience store, the group realizes the extent of what’s really happening: snow monsters are killing people, feeding on them, and turning them into zombies.

When written in summary, it sounds more than a little crazy, but as ridiculous as it sounds here, i have to say that the story was very good overall. Sure, the characters leave a little to be desired. Both Todd and Katie are a little flat and a little cliche, but their problems were comparatively minuscule when stood next to some of the characters from the other books that we’ve read for this class.

As far as a “scare factor” goes, the book wasn’t really that scary, reading more like a thriller than true horror. There wasn’t much blood, gore, flying guts or excessive violence, which was a welcome reprieve from the endless litany of Rawhead-esque gore stories. It really felt like the author took some time to develop a good story, rather than rely on a shock/gore factor to keep audiences hooked.

Recommendation:

I give it a 7/10. Read it. It’s not a book that will stay with you, but it will eat up an afternoon or two and keep you interested. It doesn’t resort to excessive sex or violence, and it has a refreshing change of pace when it comes to romance. That and it basically proves that all snow is evil and that I should move somewhere that has thunderstorms in the winter time.

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5 thoughts on “Snow by Ronald Malfi: Horror Done Right

  1. I enjoyed this book as well. I like your point about how Malfi doesn’t need to resort to excess blood or violence because the language he uses is powerful enough without it. It reminds me of our WWOH reading this week where Campbell discusses how fear and dread can be created through details and senses and does not need to rely on over the top gore. I think Malfi has a nice balance of horrific descriptions of the creatures without making anything too much for the reader to handle. His strong writing really carries this story through.

  2. I felt like the piece succeeded where “Breeding Ground” failed.

    I felt that the faceless kids produced a nice sense of the uncanny that became genuine horror later. Not really fear, but creepy, to be sure.

  3. Great points on the clean writing style and lack of excessive sex and violence. I appreciated these as well. Malfi showed that a horror can be written without these things and really setting is so much more important to the creep factor. I also wasn’t particularly frightened when I read it either, but I did find it creepy. Most of all in the case of Shawna.

  4. It begins unremarkable?! Did you read the prologue?! It starts with a BLAMO! Haha. Sorry… but Shawna was my favorite character so her chapters, few as they were, really stood out for me. I do agree with you about his one being one of the more entertaining reads on the list. But I do wish the horror (dread?) was built up a bit more in the beginning. The creepy guy looking for his daughter was horror gold, and it seems like we could have stayed there a bit longer?

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