Twelve years ago in Christopher Golden’s Snowblind, the town of Coventry, Massachusetts was visited by a snowstorm of epic proportions (if you live on the East Coast, think of the crazy winter weather we got, and then multiply that by about eight). It was so bad that people started to go missing in the middle of the storm – and not simply by driving off the road, oh no. People were straight-up vanishing without a trace, either from standing on their front porches or wandering back to their cars. It devastated the community, and in present day, there’s another similar-looking storm on the horizon, and with this storm might come the “ice men” that supposedly snatched people up in the last one.
The cast of characters to follow is diverse. There’s Jake Schapiro, a 24-year-old crime scene photographer who lost his little brother Isaac – then 10 years old – to the storm after he leaned out of a second-story window and fell to his death while looking at something moving in the snow. Doug Manning is a guy at the bottom of the social totem pole struggling to make a living after his wife Cherie up and vanished while he was stuck in a snow bank. There’s also Ella Santos and TJ Farrelly, a restaurant entrepreneur and guitarist respectively who start their relationship during the first storm and later get married with an eleven year-old daughter to speak of. The problem? Their marriage isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and so they have those domestic issues to deal with as this next storm approaches.
The way Golden sets up his characters is interesting in that he places ordinary people with ordinary problems in extraordinary situations. A mourning brother? A grief-stricken widower? Golden throws them all curveballs in the form of daily obstacles and the impending storm-to-come, the origins of which are mysterious at best.
The pacing is fairly steady and strong throughout the course of the novel. Though Golden does go into extreme close-up mode of the characters and their thoughts at certain points, what we learn is never uninteresting and only adds to our understanding of how these characters work.
The problem, of course, then becomes that there are so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of who they are, their relationships with one another, the people they lost in the storm, and what their motivations are. I can see what Golden was reaching for – that feeling of a small town where everyone knows each other’s business – but in recreating that atmosphere the book feels almost claustrophobic.
He also sometimes runs into the problem of allowing characters’ personalities to bleed together. It took me a while to remember who was who – Jake blended in with TJ, TJ blended in with Doug, etc. After some time I figured out who was who, but as a reader I shouldn’t have to play detective to get to know each character’s personality traits well enough that I can keep track of whose headspace I’m in.
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Snowblind, but one of the token blurbs on my copy was from Stephen King himself praising Golden’s novel as “the real deal,” so I crossed my fingers that I would be in for an interesting (and hopefully spooky) ride. I was partially satisfied in that the introduction, a lengthy flashback to the first snowstorm, is perfectly surreal, intense, and downright creepy. Unfortunately, the novel seems to putter out towards the end, which didn’t feel quite as satisfying as I was hoping it would.
Overall, though, it’s a fun and intriguing read. If you’re interested in the idea of a book with a plethora of characters; a steady, ominous atmosphere; and a ghost story-type mystery that weaves all the subplots together, Snowblind is for you.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Gabby Taub, the Fantasy Reviewer at Girls in Capes, is a senior at New York University studying creative writing. She enjoys reading, writing, watching TV, and spending time getting lost among the bookshelves at Strand Bookstore.