Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Review: The Snow and Darkness by Matthew Warren Wilson

The most annoying feeling when you're reading a book is the feeling that you're reading a book. Yes, I must explain. For those old enough to be around when the movie "The Never Ending Story" came out, they might remember how the film portrays Bastian as being completely transported into this new amazing world in both body and spirit, so much that he could interact with the protagonists and become one with the story he was reading. I think that movie says a lot about what a good book should achieve. Unfortunately at no point in time did "The Snow and Darkness"  involve me enough to care about the characters or feel moved about what was happening to them. 
The story recreates the classic scenario of a group of people (2 young couples, some of them hot, all of them horny...rings a bell?) being stranded and helpless. Just as the leader of the party realizes that they can neither go back nor forward he (it's  always a HE) decides to go out on his own to seek help. Then the crazy people (or monsters) attack. Now I don't mind classic setups. I devour every zombie, vampire and haunted house story that comes out. The problem arises when a story doesn't bring anything new to the table. It's even worse when the characters are not developed enough to make you care.
On the positive side I should compliment Matthew Warren Wilson for writing good, polished prose, that doesn't waste any time to propel you into  the action. Phrases are economically used and the dialogue feels real most of the time. In spite of all this unfortunately the story still doesn't provide enough genuine moments of freshness for me to rate it high. It's creepy at times, entertaining during others and has quite a few  number of splatterfest scenes which should  satisfy the gore lovers. Other than that I am afraid there isn't much more because the characters are too cliched and the events too predictable. The good guys are dull and the bad guys are copies of copies of copies of all the classic stuff we were brought up with. Think of this story as a sort of Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a twist.
Speaking of which, I also had a problem with the twist of the story (which of course I won't spoil here). Although I must admit that this is rather subjective and that other readers might appreciate it, I found this particular twist to be awkwardly placed in a horror novel. Maybe its just me, but sometimes a tool of narration that is intended to raise the stakes backfires and ends up diluting the very tension it was meant to create. A good horror novel should give you that roller coaster ride experience that once you get up there is no way in hell for you to go back down and the intensity just keeps escalating. I thought that this twist gave a decelerating effect to the ride which didn't start out too bad after all.
All in all I believe that the good writing is the main saving grace of this novel. All this author needs is to concentrate a little bit more on creating better developed characters that we haven't seen over and over again. It's amazing how the old formula always seems to work: Characters + Plot = Story. Without an original plot and multidimensional characters, your story will always leave readers begging for more. I will definitely be checking out this author when more new material comes out, because as I said, he is definitely an talented writer. It's just that his talents need, I humbly believe, to be employed on a better tale. If he achieves that, I am sure that he can definitely aspire to some success, somewhere along the near future. 

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