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The Snow Paperback – 1 November 2005
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From the Publisher
- Publisher : Gollancz; 1st edition (1 November 2005)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0575076518
- ISBN-13 : 978-0575076518
- Dimensions : 11.1 x 2.21 x 17.81 cm
- Customer Reviews:
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Roberts has said SNOW was his attempt to write a novel like J.G. Ballard’s early disaster novels (THE WIND FROM NOWHERE and The Worlds BURNING, DROWNING, and CRYSTAL). The first section of SNOW, written as a first-person account of a young woman being buried by the world-covering snow, surviving with others, then being rescued (not a spoiler) meets the intent, although in a less-than-interesting way. From there we jump into a collection of other documents, some long, some short, that are intended to piece together the bigger picture of what happened and what we’re reading. As we read a classified government document about the cause of the snow (the cause is interesting), we are unfortunately pulled out of the story, to the novel’s detriment.
After a few pages of this, we are back to the protagonist’s first-person account of her life after her rescue. She paints a picture of living in a puritanically and racially “white” America above the snow, which makes the reader wonder whether this is what the snow of the title is really about. Her husband is a general, on track to be president (not a spoiler) and despite his portrayal as extremely conservative to a fault, he is a good husband in difficult times. She (our narrator) eventually portrays him as racist, at which point she stays married and takes up with an odd character who talks of terrorism. Names are redacted throughout, reminding us again that we are not in the story.
This section is followed by the terrorist’s first-person account, which shows him to be more unstable and more of a threat than we gathered from the previous account. His constant use of cocaine made me wonder if this was the “snow” of the book now. It’s a long, excruciating section with no sci-fi at all, as he tells us of his pre-snow past. I couldn’t read it fast enough.
There is more back-and-forth until the end, and it’s only in the last 20% that we get some good-old science fiction to make things interesting again. This has more of Lem than of Ballard (not a spoiler) and it’s enough to somewhat redeem the long, uninteresting middle of the novel (hence my 3 rating, rather than 2). The final statement by our protagonist leads us to wonder how accurate her earlier accounts really were, which also helps redeem things. A lot of the middle could’ve been left out to make this a tighter read.
SPOILER: Maybe she was “snowing” us or herself all along.
SPOILER: Surprisingly, she’s still the same, passive person she was at the beginning, having learned nothing from her experiences. She didn’t change at all over the course of the novel. Having just listened to a podcast of Roberts discussing women in LORD OF THE RINGS and their passivity, I found the protagonist’s passivity in SNOW all the more surprising.
There is an emphasis throughout the story on spirituality. This seems natural since an apocalypse will naturally prompt people to consider what has led to the end. However, the back stories of the characters also highlight the issue of spirituality in interesting ways that leads to a contemplative tone that the book wouldn't have had if it was strictly a science fiction adventure.
The book is written in the form of narratives which have been released by the government and various names of characters are redacted. I thought this made for an interesting reading experience. At times it was aggravating because it took away from the flow of the story, but then at other times it made the story feel more authentic.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good adventure/science fiction story as well as to anyone who is interested in the links between spirituality and science fiction.