As part of my MFA program, I’m taking a class on monsters in the horror genre. I read Snow, by Ronald Malfi, as an assignment for that class. The below blog post may contain spoilers.
Earlier in the semester, my class had a discussion about things that can make a monster ineffective. In my opinion, Snow is an example of one of those things: making a monster too complex.
The monsters in this story are basically snow creatures. Todd and his crew are driving along in a snowstorm when their car breaks down, and they end up stuck in a town that has been invaded by monsters. These monsters have so ridiculously many features that, each time a new one presented itself while I read, I got more frustrated. Here’s a list:
1. They’re made of snow. On its face, this is an awesome concept. It’s original, and in a snowstorm its particularly terrifying.
2. Their long arms can form into blades, which they can use to cut people.
3. Through cutting into a person’s shoulder blades, this snow monster can climb into the body and basically wear it as a skin suit.
4. While in the skin suit, the monster becomes zombie-like and eats people.
5. Children lose their faces and their ability to speak when used as skin suits.
6. A snow monster basically becomes a harmless weirdo after it occupies a body for too long.
7. Snow monsters can combine together like Voltron (or Power Rangers, if you’re too young for that reference) to form a super-mega snow monster.
8. If some of the snow is separated, it turns into a puss-filled, worm-like creature.
9. By some miracle, the monster manages to jam and scramble electronics.
For me, this would have been a much better book if the author had stopped after point 4 in the above list. The electronics-scrambling was worthwhile for isolating the victims from the rest of the world, but still, it was unnecessary. It’s a snowstorm! Why not have the electricity, phones, and cable go out? That would have done the trick without adding yet another layer to this monster.
This book made me sad. It started off with great potential. My first reaction when meeting one of these snow monsters was something along the lines of: Awesome! But that feeling died a little each time we learned something new about the thing.
In the end, the monsters disappear up into the clouds. They are not defeated; they simply leave. Perhaps the author created such a powerful, complex monster that there was no true way to rid the town of them. Thus, they had to leave of their own free well.
When I think of the monsters that stay in my memory, it’s not a list of things about them that keeps them with me. It’s just one or two things. With zombies, I fear catching the virus or being eaten. With vampires, I fear getting my blood sucked or my neck ripped out. With a werewolf, I fear getting ripped to pieces or turned into a werewolf myself. These monsters have a simple essence, and that’s enough. They don’t try too hard because they don’t need to.
There’s beauty in simplicity, and that’s the one thing the author seems to have left out of this book.