by S.D. Crockett
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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?
After the Snow is the debut novel of author S.D. Crockett. Crockett brings us a dystopian set near a Welsh mountain during an ice age. Unending snow has shut down society and forced humans into settlements. This tale shares with us the journey of a fifteen-year-old boy, as he searches for his family. While the author captures the landscape with beautiful imagery, I found the lack of world building and the pace to be difficult.
The tale is told from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Willo. Willo was born in the mountains and lives in a home of the grid with his father, siblings and a group of strangers who have formed a family unit. The story opens with Willo sitting in a cluster of trees and rocks above his home. We learn that his entire family has been taken. He is alone and fearful of returning to the house. He can still hear their screams. He takes solace and seeks comfort from his companion “dog”. The author through Willo gives us a brief history of what life was like on the mountain, of his father and his family. Here the author gives us clues as to what may have happened. We learn that everything is controlled by ANPEC. They guard the settlements, control food and electricity and arrest those without papers. Willo decides to travel to the home of his sister to get answers and find his father. His journey has him facing death, saving a young girl, named Mary and entering the settlements. As he travels, we learn more about his father and his role in an underground movement. We meet many different characters throughout the tale. Some help Willo and others use him. Crockett gives each character originality and depth.
The dialect through the entire book is told in the voice of Willo. This language is entirely in slang and at first, I thought the author’s intent was to paint him as uneducated, however, we later learn he is simple. Willo’s companion “dog” is dead. Willo has cleaned the bones and sewn them, along with the dog hide onto his cap and coat. Picture this child walking around with the skull of a large dog on his head. All of Willo’s decisions in the first half of the book are made after consulting “dog”. The dog’s voice is lyrical and spiritual as he guides Willo. Willo doesn’t trust easily and is leery of the people he meets. He connects with Mary, and even when he is away from her he makes plans to find her. Willo faces a lot of difficult situations and relies on his father’s teachings and the voice of “dog”.
The tale moves at an uneven clip. It starts off strong, then in the middle it becomes stagnant and it is here that I almost quit the book. I seriously thought about making this my first DNF. I set the book down for the evening and resumed reading the next day. The third part of the book picks up and in my opinion was the strongest part of the tale.
The world-building frustrated me. Crockett paints the ice age beautifully and I could picture the mountains and overrun settlements but the lack of information kept me from truly connecting. I cannot tell you for sure the time period. There is a mention of WWI, so this may have occurred before WWII? I know it takes place somewhere in Europe. I know that people dream of escaping to China. We learn the settlements and cities are controlled by a militia under the control of ANPEC. There is a movement to escape this oppressive area and those in the movement study and follow a book by John Blovyn. As we learn more about Willo’s Dad, the story loses some of its plausibility. I find it hard to believe Willo’s Dad would not have better prepared him. While the author hints of tales told around campfires to the young, I find it difficult to believe that, at fifteen, Willo’s father wouldn’t have passed on all knowledge of the movement to him.
Overall I was impressed by Crockett’s writing style and imagery. I was disappointed by the pace and frustrated by the world-building. I am however glad that I continued reading. In my personal opinion, with Willo’s voice and a more tightly woven tale, this could have been absolutely brilliant. The last part of the book and Crocket’s imagery brought the rating up from a two. After the Snow will be published on March 27, 2012 and will be available in paper and eBook formats.
Cover: Beautiful, I love the angle and it suits the story.
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