Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Review: After The Snow by S.D. Crockett

In One Line: Young boy sets out to avenge his father’s kidnap in a future-world ravaged by ice.
Genre: Eco-apocalyptic quest!
The Gist:
Willo lives up a mountain in a part of the world that may possibly be Wales (the first part of the novel is called ‘Snowdonia’, which is a major clue). And dude, is it cold! We’re talking ice age here people. It appears that all the money we are actually currently pumping into wind-farms is absolutely pointless, because wind-farms don’t work in the cold. But those clever folks in the East have built them some nuclear power plants, so they’re all rich, leaving most of the UK in hellish poverty. 
When Willo’s father gets kidnapped (possibly due to the scary Geraint) Willo sets off to get his revenge. But he quickly gets sidelined after rescuing young Mary from a pack of ravenous wolf-dogs. Soon enough Willo and Mary find themselves in he big city, where friendship is a rare commodity. 
The Cover:
This cover looks like a designer version of a crow cave-painting, which is VERY in keeping with the mood of the book. It’s edgy and non-gendered and doesn’t give you much of a clue to the intended age of the reader - I LIKE THIS. Because although the book is narrated by a boy, it’s kind of a genderless read and wouldn’t alienate boys or girls. And it has an ageless quality - I couldn’t quite figure out the age of Willo, but that worked for me. He could be in his late teens, or he could be thirteen, and likewise this cover doesn’t alienate younger or older readers. It’s for everyone. One note though - I wish it was a dog image on the front, not a crow. Not sure why it’s a crow really, especially as dogs are such a potent theme in the book. 
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • Storytelling. Proper old-style traditional storytelling that at times feels like you’re sitting around a fire listening to a grand old sage telling it to you. And this is despite the fact that it’s written in a phonetic style (similar to works by Patrick Ness and Moira Young). What results is instant engagement with the narrator and his world.
  • Eco-disaster. For once we have a post-apocalyptic tale that isn’t caused by aliens or nuclear detonations or something weirdy-science-fictiony. This is a disaster that has actual, plausible science behind it, and the more you investigate the more you discover how frighteningly plausible this story really is. 
  • Internal Dog. Kudos to anyone who manages to write an invisible friend/inner voice that doesn’t make the character seem psychotic. I mean this seriously, because I seriously trusted Internal Dog, and longed for an Internal Dog of my own. I have two Actual Dogs, who are gorgeous fluffy creatures but alas, they don’t give me advice. And they’re Bichon Frises, so I have a feeling that instead of keeping me alive on a mountaintop, they’d give me advice on how to best make my hair look fluffy. 

These are my gorgeous doggies, Sandy and Beau. They know nothing about survival, but they sure know how to look good. 

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • Just one thing really grated on me reading this, and I don’t even think it’s that big of a deal. It certainly didn’t stop me enjoying the book. Basically, it’s that Willo doesn’t DO much. Things happen to him and he goes with the flow. And especially in the latter half of the novel, it’s like he has absolutely no control over his actions at all. I can understand why this is, as Willo is stuck in a big city with no friends and no hope, so he is relying on the kindness of strangers, but where is the kid with all the anger and desperation we in the earlier pages? Most notably, it is during these latter pages that Willo’s Internal Dog is absent. I think what I’m trying to say is that I want more Internal Dog!!!
  • Quest Narrative. I’m usually not a fan of quest narrative stories, because I tend to find they can drag on and on and on and it sucks because you know that they aren’t going to get to the end of the quest until the final pages, which is often 600 pages away (this is why I HATE Lord of the Rings with a passion. And the ancient Greeks.). But I did like this book, a lot. So I suppose I’m trying to say that if you’re looking for a good romance/thriller with a jaunty sub-plot, this isn’t the book for you. But you should probably read it anyway because it’s stunning. 
  • Pessimism. Woah those city-dwellers are mean! Especially the young ones. And I know that they are all poor and hungry and cold and if the Summer riots showed us anything it’s that gang culture is a horrible and dangerous thing, but still, seeing such ghastly young people made me sad. 
  • Coincidences. There’s just a tad too many for my liking. 

The Hypersomnia Test:
Oh, it didn’t pass, but not much is passing the hypersomnia test at the moment. I’ve gone part time at work so that I can focus on my own writing, and somehow my brain has figured out that it can therefore sleep A LOT more. I wanted this book to pass though, I really did. I have a stupid brain. 
Final Verdict:
I felt like I was reading a classic. Like The Giver or A Wrinkle in Time. There is something timeless about this book that makes it a joy to read. I almost wish it wasn’t coming out at a time in teen publishing when there is such a gamut of post-apocalyptic/dystopian novels because I fear it may get lost. There is something slightly ‘uncool’ about this book that makes it shine. I want it to be one of those word-of-mouth cult hits that gets proclaimed a ‘modern classic’ in twenty years time and gets a shiny silver cover to commemorate this. 
Further Reading:
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
To buy After the Snow click HERE!!!

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