Snow City: A disorienting, intermittently interesting, destination

Snow City by G.A. Kathryns fantasy book reviewsSnow City by G.A. Kathryns fantasy book reviewsSnow City by G.A. Kathryns

G.A. Kathryns’ independently-published novel Snow City (2017) is a story about a ghost, narrated by a kind of a ghost. The POV character Echo Japonica creates Snow City in her mind as a preservation mechanism responsive to the terror she experiences in a dystopian reality. The fantastical part of this creation is that she inhabits her imagination physically, along with a ghost. And the living is not too bad until her creation doesn’t turn out to be as safe and warm as her conscious mind had hoped.

The narrative begins with, for me, much too much exposition, and even when the story launches in earnest, it flies like a pelican — heavily, beating broad wings madly to hold itself up.

There is honest creativity here, however, and some nice moments, interesting characters, and quite a bit of heart. Readers may need patience to reach those moments, however, because of Echo’s disorienting voice and meandering beginning. The narrative style is deliberately over-formal. Apparently Echo talks like that to hold people at arm’s length, but the tact has an identical effect on the reader, and she is hard to connect with.

As I read, I remembered the first time I set out to read Gene Wolfe and picked up The Land Across. (Maybe not the best choice for a Wolfe novice.) And Snow City has a similarly bewildering quality, but without the same level of eerie Wolfe creds to pull it off.

On balance, I liked the story and its arc, certainly better than its narration.

Published in February 2017. Her name is Echo Japonica, and she lives in Snow City. But she was not always Echo, and she did not always live in Snow City. Somewhere else, she was someone else, and it was to Snow City that she fled in order to escape a place and a self that had at last become intolerable. For Snow City is a dream — Echo’s dream — of a better place, an idealized place, a place of both anonymity and fulfillment. It is, for Echo, a haven of peace, a refuge, a sanctuary. But Snow City remains, nonetheless, a dream, and dreams, being such fragile things, can so easily shade into nightmare…

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TAYA OKERLUND's first career was in public service in the federal government. She previously lived in Japan and China and speaks both Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. More recently, she authored YA novel Hurricane Coltrane (WiDo, 2015) and currently reads and writes in spare moments between therapy runs and child rearing heroics.

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One comment

  1. Taya, a thoughtful review and I loved the pelican reference. I have an immediate mental picture of what the book is like.

    No, THE LAND ACROSS is NOT the place for a Wolfe novice to start! Honestly, I’m recommend SHADOW OF THE TORTURER and the rest of the New Sun series. It’s a little easier at least.

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