Book Review: Black as Snow

Black as SnowBlack as Snow by Nick Nolan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Black as Snow” is what the author calls a ‘deconstruction’ of the Snow White story. Sebastian Black is a surprising re-imagining of the Snow White character; handsome, charismatic, and telepathic, but also incredibly callous and shallow, with a sex drive that goes for days and a skeleton or two hanging in the closet. Sebastian and his mother, Kitty, lead a religious cult called “Evo-love,” which sets Sebastian up as the next evolutionary step, while touting love and environmentalism.

If you’re looking for a fairly familiar Snow White structure, you’ll find it, but Nolan does a good job of refraining from smacking the reader about the head with it. Sebastian, disillusioned and disheartened with his Messiah-hood, lives his “wicked” mother behind and sets off into the wilds of California for a little R&R. Along the way he meets a host of characters determined to show him the True Meaning of Life; this is a plot line that could be rife with cliche, but again, Nolan navigates it with at least a little skill. Unsurprisingly, my favorite of Sebastian’s personal dwarves are Tess and Libby, an elderly lesbian couple running an inn along the highway. They, along with a handful of others, begin to teach Sebastian about Real Love and Personal Responsibility. Other characters include Reed, the Recovering Anorexic who’s Learning to Trust Again, and Ramon, the Good-Hearted Hispanic Construction Worker. Evil Mother Kitty, on the other hands, sits in her penthouse and schemes various ways to get Sebastian back into her clutches, most of which revolve around his iPhone (it’s an apple, get it?). There’s also, of course, a handful of nutjobs who’ve conspired to bump Sebastian off, using the guise of religion to cover up their personal vendettas (the author’s opening of organized religion starts to show here).

Surprisingly, Sebastian’s a pretty likable character, and I was interested to see what happened to him in the end. There were only a couple of scenes that threw me, but unfortunately, they were pretty big ones.

Sebastian has several conversations with a character who has Passed On, both as the character is passing, and at the climax of the book, after Sebastian’s been shot by aforementioned nutjob. They have a discussion about the nature of death & heaven, and it gets a little heavy-handed.

We all come from god. All living things, even plants and animals have some of God…I think of God like…like the sun that’s always giving off warmth, and we’re all created out of that warmth, which is life and love. Then most of us go back and rejoin with God, with that huge sun of love, when our souls are ready…That joy you felt is to God what raindrops are to a big thunderhead cloud. Those raindrops wash and soothe and clean and nourish. And eventually, as you learned in school, all raindrops return to the sky…All people are really just raindrops who help others grow. Then when we die, we return to God–that big cloud in the sky.

The rest of Nolan’s writing is fairly crisp, but there are a few places, like this, where it gets bogged down in metaphor; it happens largely in places where I suspect the author’s true opinions are coming through.

The second really unfortunate episode is the book’s one sex scene. My problem isn’t that it’s explicit (which it is, fair warning). It’s that it seems like it was written by a fifteen-year old girl writing her first fanfiction. I don’t know who else could write something like this with a straight face:

At first Reed was concerned, knowing she was not quite ready for their union, especially after feeling the size of him; it had been months since she’d been with a man, and she’d never been with anyone as heroically built as Sebastian.

Later in the same scene, she watches “his rippled back and shoulders writhe and twist.” Really?

Even so, I recommend that you pick this up (it’s $1.99 in the Kindle store) and push through to the end. After all, it is Snow White; the bad guys get their comeuppance, and the good guys live happily every after.

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