Review: After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Author: S.D. Crockett
Genre: post-apocalyptic, dystopia, young-adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 305 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected March 2012
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3.75/5
Fifteen-year-old Willo was out hunting when the trucks came and took his family away. Left alone in the snow, Willo becomes determined to find and rescue his family, and he knows just who to talk with to learn where they are. He plans to head across the mountains and make Farmer Geraint tell him where his family has gone.

But on the way across the mountain, he finds Mary, a refugee from the city, whose father is lost and who is starving to death. The smart thing to do would be to leave her alone -- he doesn't have enough supplies for two or the time to take care of a girl -- but Willo just can't do it. However, with the world trapped in an ice age, the odds of them surviving on their own are not good. And even if he does manage to keep Mary safe, what about finding his family?

I so badly want to give this odd little novel 4 stars, but I just can't do. I'm adhering to the GoodReads' strict system of a four being 'really liked it' as opposed to a three's merely "liked it" for S.D. Crockett's debut. I want to really like After the Snow as a whole but I just can't do it. I love love loved the first Part, but Parts II & III wiped out all the building momentum previously acquired. Giant sections where nothing happened for far too long in the mid-portion of the novel killed my waning interest, and the characters introduced during those pages (Jack, Elizabeth, Cath, exception: Dorothy) lacked the interest of the ones from before. Luckily for Willo, Mary and mostly me because I'm self-centered like that and I want to be entertained, damnit, the ending surprised me with its strength. Also, since this book was quite a bit different than anything I've read in a while (I'm told the voice is like that of Saba from Blood Red Road but I've yet to read that one), the review is going to be a bit different from my norm. WARNING: Some slight SPOILERS, implied or otherwise.

The Good:

I loved Willo immediately, even before adjusting to his distinct distracting speech patterns. A very distinct and interesting idea for a post-apocalyptic novel. The twists and surprises are nicely hidden behind the author's narrative sleight of hand. Willo's unique and strong voice is consistent and matures. Crockett manages to nicely wrap up the existing plotlines of novel without being absolutely final. This stands/will stand out in a growing subgenre of YA post-apocalyptic dystopias with the controls of 'settlements' 'the city', the ominous ANPEC, etc. Crockett would occasionally impress me with its imagery or tactility, even in Willo's mangled dialect ("Soon I get the fire lit good, and it make a soft dance on the walls..." p. 26 ARC).The open supported idea that China was the promised land, not America/the West.

The 'Meh':

I didn't dislike the 'dog voice' that Willo hears; he's a very solitary, laconic kid abandoned in the new Ice Age. I just didn't love that aspect, either. The extended hunt-and-chase scenes before Willo and Mary get to the road was one of the few part of the Part I I could've done without. I liked Willo very much, but I didn't emotionally connect to any other character/ feel and buy the emotional weight to the motivations of various people (Dorothy, Callum).

The Bad:

Sometimes I wished for another perspective (Mary's, for example would've been a lovely complement not only for her normal voice but for her experiences), just to give a break from translating Willo-thought into English. Not enough details about the apocalyptic event that caused the issues/what is provided lacks proficient explanation. The ANPEC organization in control of the people (with such actions overt like controlling food, money, nuclear reactors making them a de facto dystopic entity) is also largely mysterious - enhances the aura, sure, but leaves me feeling cheated.

So, in Conclusion:

After the Snow is uneven 304 page novel; it starts strongly to falter midway, only to make up for the lack of action later, but, on the whole, its individuality makes up for the most of its missteps. As a debut and a possible first in a series, I'm feeling more inclined to be tolerant about the large gaps of knowledge in the worldbuilding of this future - with hopes for more details later on.

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