If you like dystopian and survival stories, you can’t miss ‘After the Snow’ by S.D. Crockett. In an Earth that has been plunged into a new Ice Age, Africa and the Far East dominate the world economy. Meanwhile, western governments will do anything to control their own people and regain a place in the world.
Sixteen-year-old Willo and his family don’t care about any of that. They’re stragglers — people living outside government control in the wilderness. They live off the earth the same way their ancestors did. They don’t threaten anyone, but the government doesn’t like people they can’t control. When Willo comes home one day to find his whole family gone, he sets off in search of them. Along the way, he stops to rescue a starving girl and her brother. His moment of mercy hurts his chances of survival — and changes his life forever.
‘After the Snow’ is filled with action, suspense and survival, but what really makes it stand out is the compelling voice of the protagonist. Many dystopian novels, like ‘The Hunger Games’ for example, feature poor underdogs struggling to get by in barely functioning societies. However, Katniss and characters like her always speak like they’ve received a college education despite their circumstances.
Willo can read and write, but has no formal education. He is very intelligent and has flights of poetry, but he talks like a straggler. Willo’s unique voice and dialect is one of the highlights of the book. Some readers may find it hard to get into, but it adds grit and realism, really helping you get inside Willo’s head. For an example, click to read an excerpt from the author’s blog.
Willo is a strongly written character who also has a strong connection with nature. He owns a dog skull that he wears on his head, and meditates when he has a problem so that the dog can “talk” to him. Since he has no memory of anything before the snow, he’s wilder than his father’s generation. One of the central struggles of ‘After the Snow’ is how Willo learns to balance humanity and his father’s ideals with his own need to survive.
The one thing that’s unclear in this dystopia is how the world ended up this way. Willo himself isn’t educated on the specifics, so all we get in the way of explanation are vague hints about how “the oceans stopped working.” It’s also hard to believe that absolutely no one would know how to live off the land. However, that’s not the point: the point of ‘After the Snow’ is that people can learn to live off the land, but it’s easier to stay safe and oppressed in cities and under government control. The stragglers are “beacons of hope” because they’ve managed to both survive and keep their freedom.
‘After the Snow’ is a unique new novel in the dystopian genre. It’s no ‘Hunger Games’ or ‘Divergent’; rather, it’s full of small rebellions. It’s the story of the self against the system.