What happens if one year spring just never comes? Even in the Arctic Circle you have the cycle of the seasons and a period where the snow draws back a little and the weather warms up. However, in The Wintermen ll: Into The Deep Dark, published by Latitude 46 Publishing, Northern Ontario, Canada resident Brit Griffin postulates a world where the havoc of climate change has caused an environmental catastrophe – endless winter.
As the title suggests this is the second book in a series, but don’t worry if you haven’t read the first book, Wintermen, Griffin provides enough information about people, events, and places for readers to catch-up quickly. Winters have never been easy in the North, but when it doesn’t go away it becomes a lot harder. Especially for those outside of the metropolitan areas in the South.
When a corporation name Talos took over running things after the government collapsed, you either lived the way they said or you became an “outlaw” or “terrorist”. Johnny Slaught had killed one of Talos’ security people when he decided to take them on, and then holed up in the old Fraser Hotel in Cobalt Ontario. The hotel ended up becoming a rallying place for people who thought Slaught was some kind of hero and those just looking for shelter.
So now there’s 50 or so people living in the hotel. Up until now scavenging parties have managed to keep them in supplies, including much needed gasoline to keep their snow machines running and the boiler in the hotel operating. Unfortunately they’re starting to have to go further and further afield in order to try and find what they need.
It’s on one trip a scavenger discovers a harbinger of some of the worst trouble the community has faced yet. While they had beaten off an attack from some Talos mercenaries types in the first book and taken a couple of casualties, the storm coming their way now has all the makings of being worse. Finding one dead body hanging from a tree is bad enough, but when dead and wounded bodies start showing up in the woods surrounding Cobalt, it can only mean serious trouble.
And nothing brings trouble like hidden treasure. When everything collapsed after the freeze up there was a mass exodus of people from the area and things got left behind: things like a cache of gold bars. While not many know about them, enough do for there to be a deadly gold rush.
Three different parties have set out from down south to try and snare themselves the gold. A disaffected female Talos agent named Mitch Black, one of the group who attacked the hotel previously, a security guard from one of the border stations and his companion who claims she has a map to the gold and a trio of out and out crooks led by the psychopathic Bodie Dejohn.
Griffin has taken all these elements and created a wild and wooly story which takes readers on a quite the ride. Part of the reason is her ability to bring the environment to life. If you’re feeling overheated this summer there’s a couple of sections in this book which are guaranteed to help cool you off. Her descriptions are so vivid you can almost feel the chill in your bones and the cold leeching your core heat away.
She also is familiar with both the area’s geography and history which helps us better appreciate the story. The more we understand the part of the world we’re wandering through, the more we understand the people who’ve chosen to live here, under what aren’t exactly ideal conditions.
However, what really makes the story work are the characters in the book. From Slaught and Black, to one of the party of three criminals (known only as Boy) and on down the list of people we meet reading each are very much alive on the page. Over the course of the book we not only get to know the lead characters, we also watch them figure out who exactly they are.
Whether its Slaught trying to figure out this whole leadership thing and when he actually chose to be responsible for the lives of 50 people, or Black and Boy wrestling with the moral dilemmas of things they’ve had to do in the past or are being forced to do in the present, there are no cut and dry answers. Each of them wades through their own stuff and, like any human, gropes blindly in what they hope is the right direction.
The Winterman ll: Into The Deep Dark is a great read. Not only has Griffin created an interesting community of people and an formidable environment for them to live in, the story clips along at the perfect pace. Readers will never feel rushed past vital information, or like they don’t have a moment simply to be in the story. On the other hand events proceed quickly enough to leave you on the edge of your seat and reluctant to put the book down.
Personally I feel any book that can quote both Joe Strummer and the movie Die Hard is a must read for everyone. The fact that’s its well written and a whole lot of fun are just great bonuses.
(Originally published at Blogcritics.org as Book Review: The Wintermen II - Into The Deep Dark by Brit Griffen)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.