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“Our situation just got worse, didn't it?” Kate said. “None of the cars in this town will start, will they? All the electrical shit is out and all the battery-powered things have gone to shit. Everything's either dead or scrambled.”

“Kate,” Todd said, suddenly backing up behind the kitchen counter with his gun drawn. “There's someone behind you.”

—Leisure Books, ISBN 0843963557, c.2010, p.180

 

Formula.

Most readers grimace at the thought, except if it's in a baby bottle, a Grand Prix racecar, or a James Bond flick. But, in prose, it can be like an invisible Chorus explaining things and helping the reader along with a bucket full of pre-conceived notions. Other than using formulaic crutches to mis-direct, create parody, or move through necessary structural elements of a work, Formula—to rise from the bottomfeeding cliché's—must cuddle up with a stellar writing style, a unique atmospheric presentation, or—best of all—engaging and uncommon characters.

Here's the prescription for Snow: Strangers, under the pressure of an ongoing winter storm, band together in a rental car to reach home for Christmas.(1) They get stuck in a New England village seemingly-abandoned and under obvious duress.(2) Wicked adversaries are wearing the dead townspeople like car coats at a gearhead rally, sporting zombie ‘tudes(3) with incomprehensible motivations. A band of Fearless Vampi—err, I mean—Zombie Killers is formed.(4) They discover the “skinsuits” of “catatonic nonattendance”(p.250) appear inhabited by—git yur super-wide shovels ready—snow flurries forming into a mass, then guided by a hive mind emanating from a pulsating cloud “the color of pond moss”(p.167) which is afloat over the city and sealing it off from the rest of this world. And these “fucking snowmen”(p.181) can take on multiple, hideous and obscenely-offensive aberrations, like a “creeping phallus”(p.274) or a “shaggy white behemoth . . . with a multitooth maw . . . of lawn-mower blades”(p.267). The Zombie Killers must feel as smug as homo erectus when they discover good, ol' fire pretty much melts them. Later, after this hoarfrost from hell is dissiapated by arriving authorities, creationism hints that they came from “other places up there, beyond our world” for the purposes of the “Feed”(p.305).

Author Malfi does a competent job on a story with more cracks in it than the Khumbu Ice Fall. He unattends the congenital hilarity of his killer Frosties by keeping his tongue mostly out of his cheek. His style is straightforward with strong metaphoric content and a tense pacing sense to keep the pages moving with tangible characters.

If you find yourself sequestered in an outhouse-like hut in the middle of frozen Lake Ontario staring at a fishing line sinking into an ice hole in the floor, this might be the perfect read for you.

 

1) does this kick up a Candy/Martin 1987 comedy for anyone but me?

2) was that Koontz genuflecting while hugging copies of Phantoms?

3) just pick any film/book from the currently-running Romaro/Matheson wannabes.

4) Roman, Roman, Roman, where are you now that we really need you?

© copyright 04/14/2013 by Larry Crawford

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