This was one bleak story full of sadness, hopelessness, and lashings of blood; some fresh, some congealed and blackened. So of course I enjoyed it immensely!
I’m a big fan of Rich Hawkins. His Plague Trilogy was superb; a post-apocalyptic world torn apart by, not zombies, but creatures even more terrifying and grotesque, albeit with a hunger for pathetic humans. He has a skill of writing terribly depressing stories that only implore you to carry on reading. The Cold was another example of this.
Again, this is a post-apocalyptic story where humankind is plagued by strange, bloodthirsty creatures very much from the Lovecraftian school of cosmic horror.
The world is suddenly flooded with snow. In the Summer. Aah, so now you understand where the title comes from. Of course, none of the characters are dressed appropriately for this extreme switch in weather conditions. This was one of the first things that drew me in. Stories set in the snow and ice mostly have characters in big coats and the like. But here, everyone was dressed for the warm weather. Suddenly their plight was heightened, although the bloody remains of fellow humans surrounding them also added to this.
Seth is the guy we follow throughout this story. He wakes up in the snow immediately after his train crashes. He’s – obviously – very much in the dark as to what’s going on. And so is the reader, so his journey of survival and discovery of the cause of this nightmare is one you really care about.
He remembers the train crashing after some massive monster thing with tendrils, possibly sent from Yuggoth, blazes out of the sky. Many of the passengers are killed, and their desecrated remains are described vividly.
And so we get the survival story as Seth and a group of passengers try to find civilisation and an explanation for the horrors that are unfolding around them. Along the way they meet others, some die (most die), and eventually head to an army base that’s supposedly still operational.
So yeah, the beasts. Damn, these things are grotesquely monstrous and ravenous for mankind. They’re not zombies, they’re not deformed animals, are they aliens? It’s never stated precisely, but that doesn’t matter, in fact it heightens their scariness. You could argue the beasts are a little too vague in what they are, but for me that makes them even more terrifying.
What Rich Hawkins is so good at is gore. There are some visceral deaths on display here. But its not only the deaths. The after effects of ‘off-screen’ butcherings are starkly portrayed, bringing more than a little vomiting from our survivors.
It’s hard to end a story like this, when all of humanity is either dead or soon-to-be-dead. Towards the end of the book there is some information about what the threat may be, info I’m certainly not sharing here, and although expertly handled, I really wanted to know more.
I also felt the character of Seth to be a bit of a wet blanket. Yeah I know it’s a scary thing to happen and I’d probably be much worse, but I just wished he had more balls, you know? Although saying that, by the end I could kind of understand why he was like he was. I think this book has two ways of interpreting the ending; the more subtle version being my favourite. But I can’t say anything more about that, apart from; the bit when they meet the woman who sent a distress call (for those who’ve read it).
If you want to be entertained by a depressing nothingness all covered in deep, gore-soaked snow, then you need to check this out. Just make sure you’re wearing a coat.
Categories: book review