Snowfall feels like an homage to The Watchmen; not because it is an ensemble piece (it isn’t) but because we are given a cast of characters who are all very flawed and very unlikable. And like the Watchmen and its groundbreaking plot, author Harris has some points to make (For Snowfall, about corporate greed and climate change). The result, however, is very different. Snowfall is a hard title to like: it is all doom and gloom, ineffectual heroes and villains, and a lot of missing heart. Where Watchmen worked because the characters felt real, Snowfall fails completely. I kept reading just to finish the book and not because I liked any part of it or wanted to see how the protagonists fared.
Story: As Earth fell into climate disaster due to science out of control, snow disappeared and corporations ‘saved’ the people by taking over. But there are rebels – people who don’t see corporation control as a benefit but have been labeled as terrorists. When a University student with an agenda goes searching for a legendary anarchist- a long lost rebel who could make it snow at will – he will find more than he bargained for – and a truth he wishes he never found.
The plot was, honestly, a mess. Hard to digest, a lot of random information that is not tied together well, and questionable motivations given to so many of the characters. Even the point of the university student finding the White Wizard was so obvious that I have to question if there is anyone intelligent at the Corporation that they couldn’t figure that out as well. I learned more from the back cover blurb than I did in the story itself because too little time was given to the details. It was ‘high concept’ without really going enough into the actual concept to make it believable or interesting. That kind of story writing can feel lazy and later reveals didn’t help.
The characters themselves were all weak – highly flawed but without a beating heart at the center to make us want to follow them. Antihero stories can be interesting, especially if the main characters have strength of character or body. Or if their flaws define them in a way that the reader can relate. But the college student, the White Wizard, and all the side characters neither felt intelligent enough or with enough mettle and grit to really be worth having their story told (or to be the heroes/villains we want to follow). The bad guys were typically stupid and arrogant – none understanding their resources or how to wield them. It was never a case of outsmarting anyone so much as being so stupid that the enemy is able to bumble right through them – this goes for the ‘heroes’ and the villains.
The world building was weak – ramifications of the advanced technology were never really explored. The corporation was suitably evil and megalomaniac without really addressing that it is the shareholders that are the problems, not the executives whose job is to maximize profit. And in a world where a corporation controls everything, there are NO shareholders they are beholden to – the story writes the corporation as being fully controlled by an executive. So we have a Machiavellian set of leadership without showing us WHY this corporation was smart enough to do what it did or why it is even a Corporation. Or why the people follow it blindly other than being told that the Corporation ‘saved’ them.
Half way through, the story became so disenchanting and disenfranchising that I just wanted it to end. The ‘fairy tale’ conceit felt labored and unnecessary and I disliked all the characters and even their designs. At times, it was as if someone had taken the concepts and designs from V for Vendetta and stuck them in a Blender and expected something coherent to come out. And I still don’t understand the point of giving us a main character whose only purpose is to be tortured throughout – he just goes along with it for no reason, defeating the purpose of understanding his motivations. We don’t really need an observer here. Let’s not get into having a child in the story and not giving her any kind of personality or motivations; children are not cyphers.
The illustration work was serviceable but did nothing to elevate the story – it was straightforward and uninspired. I wish the fairy tale sequences had been colored and drawn quite differently with warmer and richer colors in a more obvious fashion. It would have contrasted better than the very straightforward storytelling and art.
In all, I did not enjoy Snowfall. Even the title itself, much like the story and characters, felt obvious and recycled. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.