Horror is a rare genre that indeed has a true literary potential into which many authors could have tapped in, but unfortunately this novel does not come to my expectations of a good horror novel that will send willies down my spine. To be fair, it did send some willies down my reading spine, but I want my willies in a good literary context.
To start from the very beginning, I am honest saying that the premise of the perfect blizzard with snow, power outage, cold, misery of the chilling wind, lost and stranded people is very successful and interesting. The scenes with the supernatural and inexplicable and potentially scary are quite suspenseful and edgy, and all the elements of the suspense and horror are successfully interwoven into the plot, so if only the novel had had only this things under its belt, it would definitely have been a successful novel.
Unfortunately, all these ingredients for a horror novel were put in the context that does not appeal to me. The descriptions should have been more detailed and more inventive wording-wise: unusual and original tropes have not hurt any good author worth his or her salt. The number of main characters was simply overwhelming, and I often had to page back to refer the character’s name and to his or her personality and/or history.
The characters were very unlikable, not because they were all bad people, but because these were the characters who would never read books: odd job pickers, struggling restaurant owners, policemen, even school teachers were apathetic – people with the minimum qualifications who are not enthusiastic about their jobs. I used to live in the small town populated by similar people, and we could not breathe there intellectually and moved to a bigger, more liberal place where people are not driven by the basic consumerist impulse. In brief, the book is about the people who would never read any book themselves as they are so much involved into their dramas. The language also targets the same group – nothing complex or breathtaking, but simple paragraphs and slightly trite descriptions. The saddest thing is the book will never be read by the target audience it tries to reach and appeal too. Other people read books nowadays.
On a personal note, all these characters remind me of Republicans, not the educated, well-versed and supremely egotistic Republicans who use their philosophy to get the best of life and damn the others. These are right-wingers by habit, by routine, by lack of knowledge and experience, by apathy, by prejudice, by being a part of the conformist flock.
I know personal political and literary tastes can be very rigorous criteria to judge the book, and thus we judge too harshly, but we do need another Stephen King, whose novels can be spine-chilling and hair-raising and still keep the feeling of a literary novel written by an author who cares and loves his or her characters, whose characters are human and humane, and even if they are monsters, at least we know where their demons come from.
Christopher Golden did not deliver the novel I wanted. Sorry for my highly subjective political bias.