Tuesday, April 23, 2013

REVIEW: After the Snow by S.D. Crockett

After the Snow
by S.D. Crockett
[Willo is wielding a torch made of a chair leg and pages he ripped out of a book. The first sentence of the book was "This is the book of the generations of Adam."]
"Down on my knees surrounded by the pack.
Aint today though. Aint gonna get me today...
The she-dog take a lunge but this time I got angry inside from somewhere-- and the anger make me strong, and I rise up from the ground as the slathering bitch leap up and when she do I hold the torch high and bring it down.
This is the book of the generations of Adam."
Willo and his family live in the mountains, hiding from the government, in a future where the land is covered in an eternal winter. Willo's dad remembers the old world and is passionate about books and ideas, but his son is only focused on survival and the present moment. When Willo's family get taken, it is up to him to rescue them. Forced out of his comfort zone, Willo confronts new people, environments and ideas. He struggles to cling to his old way of thinking as the world challenges him at every turn.

This book gripped me from the beginning. Willo had such a strong and unique voice. He is part of the first generation born after the world changed. His father and stepmother still live in the old world, quoting Star Wars and dreaming of a better life. They tell Willo stories of the world before, and declare that they are a "beacon of hope" to those under government control. Willo doesn't listen. He sees no point in the dream, the romance, the ideas, the past or the future. He dwells in the now. He sees the world in black and white: everyone is either an ant or a grasshopper from the fable. You work, or you die. He survives. He creates a hat out of a dead dog skull out of respect for the creature, and he takes advice from what he imagines to be the dog's voice. He lives almost a Native American lifestyle, saying his words over his prey and thanking them for what they give.

When he is forced out on his own, his focus and hard work are a blessing, saving himself, and a timid and starving girl he discovers (Mary) many times over from the cold, wild dogs, and cannibals. But when Mary and Willo enter the city, the tables turn and Mary is the one who knows how to survive. Willo is out of his element and helpless.

This is where the book went a little off the rails for me. When Willo enters the city, the story shifts from post-apocalyptic survival story to dystopia. Willo doesn't do much after a point and the story looses focus. Even after the story picks up again, and Willo takes his destiny into his own hands, the solutions seem almost too convenient, and Willo's final decision comes across as cyclical and cowardly. You wonder why this time his plan will succeed when it didn't before, and his other option seems to have so much change and forward momentum. I don't want to give too much away.

I would be interested to see this as a trilogy: Part I: Willo in the Woods; Part II: Willo in the City, Part III: Willo and the Resistance. That way, Crockett would have had room to flesh out the story, create more minor conflicts, develop characters other than Willo, and generate more complex solutions.

Still, it is an entertaining read, and a unique voice.

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