Book Review: Horrorfrost by Edward Newton
I can't quite remember why I picked up this novel. I'm sure it was suggested to me on Amazon when I was doing research and accumulating a list of books to review. The cover is reminiscent of the 90s R.L. Stine Fear Street series, invoked a certain amount of cringe. The title may have been this book's saving grace.
The ebook sells on Amazon for $3.99, on paperback for $14.95, and is available on Kindle Unlimited.
I'll go over the things I liked about the novel first, which was surprisingly quite a bit once I got past the cover. The title is actually a play on the word hoarfrost, not something I was familiar with, but the author does describe it at the beginning of the novel so you aren't lost throughout its recurrences. The chapters, listed as degrees below zero, increase as the temperature within the book decreases. This was such a simple artistic addition that could have been done any number of times through post-apocalyptic fiction such as Flint Maxwell's Whiteout Series, yet never was. This author did it. I can respect that attention to detail.
As the novel progresses, each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character. The author does not make the mistake of making us read the same event from different eyes, but progresses the story through them with very minimal overlap. It helps maintain the pace while protecting the integrity of the plot. Newton achieves this beautifully.
If you were to read the blurb of this book, it mentions only one man, Roman, who is a very stoic and unapologetic figure in the novel, yet there are so many other rich character developments that you become invested in each one. I believe my favorite was Rhonda, a lively mature woman pushing the big 5 0. She's gone to this mountain resort for a weekend getaway with a gentleman she met online, only to find out that he had told her he was about ninety pounds lighter and she had told him she was about 11 years younger. Rhonda is the type of woman who drives out of the community and city she lives in to a hairdresser where no one she knows could possibly run into her just to maintain the secret that she dyes her hair, not realizing that everyone already knows. No one in Rhonda's life but her is under the delusion that she's anywhere close to 39 years of age. She has no significant other, no children. At the cusp of 50, she's realizing that what she had wanted most in life, it might be too late to have. Yet what happens in Horrorfrost changes her, throws her into situations that test her mindset, her priorities, the depths of her human compassion and loyalty. Things are chaotic and survival is not certain, but she truly shines in the face of adversity.
Now for some of the things I may not have liked so much. This is one of those novels where there are a lot of unanswered questions. There are only hints to the how and the what. This can go either way for readers. Some are okay not being satisfied with direct answers, explanations, and descriptions, while others feel cheated. I personally am fine not knowing, but you may not be. I don't see any indication that the writer intends to make this the first in a series, so keep it in mind that those answers may never come.
At times, I felt as if the author's word choices and descriptions were redundant. This area has gone to chaos and the sky has opened up in a torrential blizzard. I understand that. Most readers have never been in a snowstorm quite like that. Setting the atmosphere is important. Immersing the reader in the white is imperative. Yet there are also only so many ways you can describe white before it starts to feel like word vomit and I wanted less.
There were also times that I felt as if the descriptions were a bit off. For instance, in the first chapter Roman, who was for all intensive purposes a "mountain man", was described as someone who had walked away from his life and corner office in the city twenty years ago to live off of the land on his mountain. It spoke of how he had built his cabin himself and wore clothes made from the tanned hides of animals he had killed on his own. It even said that he had not been in the town since the first initial purchases twenty years ago when he had arrived, some basic tools and a compound bow. Yet the opening scene has him drinking coffee...I guess he had stocked up on a LOT of coffee some twenty years ago. Later in the novel, we have Esther, a spritely elderly lady suffering in the grasp of Alzheimer's Disease. She can barely remember the names of those around her, unable to recognize faces that should be familiar, even losing the names of objects that are involved in everyone's day to day. She sees a group of teenagers huddled in a comic book store over their cell phones and cannot remember what the devices are called. Yet in chapters devoted to her perspective, she refers to an LED screen. Just small inconsistencies that I caught, yet neither detracted from the story in any way.
Overall, I think Newton really delivered the tension of apocalyptic fiction. I was engaged from the first chapter, and never lost interest. Would highly recommend this read! I wanted to leave you guys with my three favorite excerpts from the novel:
"Rhonda Phelps stares into the mirror. Was that another wrinkle? Another line? Shitshitshit. They popped up lately like weeds in a garden. Every morning. Festering like an infection."
"Far enough away that Aspen feels that your time to die is no longer imminent. Just eventual." "He cannot fully fathom the true scope of the monster's size, but certainly, if it wants to reach over a twenty-foot wall and pluck him like a flower, then Roman is a rose."