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Adam Roberts is the author of a growing number of science fiction novels, short stories, essays and other writings. This site contains not just his blog, but everything you could ever want to know about everything Adam has ever published. And more...

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The Snow

Published By:
Gollancz, UK [2004]
6.99 Pb
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[Synopsis to Follow]


[Reviews To Follow]

Adam Says:

I can't shake this feeling that The Snow will be my Sordello...

I did my PhD on Robert Browning, and have spent a healthy chunk of my academic career researching his poetry. And whilst this has not diminished my love for that poetry in the slightest, it may be starting to turn my brain, to the point where I am beginning to identify with my subject... but then again, perhaps that is just wish-fulfilment. Lambasted by the critics, Browning eventually secured a significant reputation. But, though similarly lambasted, it seems to me unlikely I will.

The Snow took me the longest of all my books to write. It started with a simple premise (one day it starts snowing, and it does not stop... although this premise occurred to me one day out of the blue, I later discovered that several writers have already written on it), and with the premise two stories I wanted to tell: one about an individual surviving the catastrophe as it happened, and another about a post-disaster marriage going awry. It occurred to me that these were two halves of the same story.

But as I worked through the implications of this story it complexified and complexified. I realised, after a little while, that I was writing a book about whiteness; and the different cathexes of whiteness: the environmental, the psychological, the racial, the blank page, the blank sky, the death of all colour and the hidden spectrum of all the colours locked in white light... it seemed, for a while, too much. It may be too much. But I wrote a first draft, I balanced whiteness against blackness whilst trying to avoid too schematic an approach. And as I was doing this I realised that the book had rooted in my imagination for one particular reason: it was really about 'the White Goddess', about the Muse.

Robert Graves's brilliant though batty book The White Goddess has been a holy book of mine for a long time. The Snow is in many respects a science fictionalisation of that work. When I realised that this is what I was doing, the redrafting of the text became in one sense easier, because it was clearer to me what I was doing, what my subconscious had been prompting me to do: but it also made it harder, because it made the pattern more complex. And, since it is addressed to my Muse, not yours, it articulates a whole bunch of things (about love, sex, politics, depression, repression, death, barrenness and atonement) that mean a lot to me without necessarily meaning a lot to you. But that's just the way it goes.

The Snow was published August 2004.

So why do I think of it as Sordello-like? Well, it has garnered the most swingeing reviews of my career, above all one from Chris Priest that was particularly painful to read since Priest has always been a hero of mine (although that fact of course in no way diminishes the perfect liberty he has to hate my book). Nick Gevers, in the Oct '04 Locus, found a little more to praise; but thought the book a failure overall nevertheless. He argued that I had tried to express too much via the central trope of snow, and that this overburdening of the metaphor resulting in the book signifying, in the end, nothing very much. Which is spot on, and in a way what I was hoping to achieve, although clearly Gevers sees this as dispraiseworthy where I thought it a worthwhile aesthetic project. Ah well.

Of course I may be flattering, and indeed deluding, myself. The author's temptation on reading a bad review is to say "ah, well, s/he clearly didn't get my book... it's too complex and difficult for them to understand..." Which may be true. But it may be that the book is merely crap. I've spent too long with my face pressed close against the edifice of the novel, writing and revising it, to be able to judge.

If I have one reservation about the novel it is that I may have put too much action in it: it may be too eventful, not bleached and blank enough. But had I made it any more white, any more clouded in the blank cloud of unknowing (snow falling, the pale dust slowly following the Twin Towers to the ground, the Holy Spirit) then it would have been considerably less readable than it is. And that surely would not be a good thing...

An Extract:

[Extract to Follow]

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