ARC Review: A Satirical Thriller

The Thing in the Snow by Sean Adams

Publication Date: January 3, 2023

Summary from NetGalley:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Heap, a thought-provoking and wryly funny novel—equal parts satire and psychological thriller—that holds a funhouse mirror to the isolated workplace and an age of endless distraction. 

At the far reaches of the world, the Northern Institute sits in a vast expanse of ice and snow. Once a thriving research facility, its operations were abruptly shut down after an unspecified incident, and its research teams promptly evacuated. Now it’s home to a team of three caretakers—Gibbs, Cline, and their supervisor, Hart—and a single remaining researcher named Gilroy, who is feverishly studying the sensation of coldness.

Their objective is simple: occupy the space, complete their weekly tasks, and keep the building in working order in case research ever resumes. (Also: never touch the thermostat. Also: never, ever go outside.) The work isn’t thrilling—test every door for excessive creaking, sit on every chair to ensure its structural integrity—but for Hart, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to hone his leadership skills and become the beacon of efficiency he always knew he could be.

There’s just one obstacle standing in his way: a mysterious object that has appeared out in the snow. Gibbs and Cline are mesmerized. They can’t discern its exact shape and color, nor if it’s moving or fixed in place. But it is there. Isn’t it?

Whatever it might be, Hart thinks the thing in the snow is an unwelcome distraction, and probably a huge waste of time. Though, come to think of it, time itself has been a bit wonky lately. Weekends pass in a blur, and he can hardly tell day from night. Gravity seems less-than-reliable. The lights have been flickering weirdly, and he feels an odd thrumming sensation in his beard. Gibbs might be plotting to unseat him as supervisor, and Gilroy—well, what is he really doing anyway?

Perplexed and isolated—but most certainly not alone—Hart wrestles for control of his own psyche as the thing in the snow beguiles his team, upends their work, and challenges their every notion of what is normal.

ARC provided by William Morrow via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

This was very weird, though surprisingly engaging and had a very dry sense of humor throughout. I’m not totally sure that I got the point of the book, but I still appreciated the story by the end.

The story is told solely through Hart’s point of view. He is the team leader, but he often has doubts that he is doing a good job in that role. He spends his off time reading a series of books about a man who is a very good leader, hoping to learn from him. He has an interesting relationship with the other two characters who he spends basically no time with outside of the time they are working on their assignments together. Hart tries to keep things moving along throughout the story, but the Thing in the snow becomes such an obsession for the group that eventually he starts to question his sanity.

We only see the other characters through Hart’s narrative, so they felt a bit underdeveloped. I thought Gilroy was the most interesting out of all of them. Gibbs was also interesting in her attempts to understand what the thing in the snow was. Once the thing becomes an obsession with Gibbs and Cline, their characters became a bit more defined. But this book wasn’t really about the characters.

The main bulk of the story was taken up with the mundane and rather pointless tasks the three were set by management. For example, they spent a week testing all of those chairs in the seven story building. Another week was spent testing whether the tables were still flat. It was kind of fascinating that the author is still able to engage the reader in the story while the characters are doing such boring work. Even with the discovery of the Thing in the snow, their lives are not really interrupted all that much. It was also interesting that Hart didn’t engage with anyone outside of work hours except for the occasional run in with Gilroy. I was able to imagine that his life outside of the institute wasn’t very different than in.

I was somewhat disappointed that I never felt like the group was in danger. I kept expecting things to ramp up a bit and become more creepy or more of a thriller than it did. It just sort of plods along at a steady pace with some frantic parts towards the end. The ending was a little disappointing as well. I just wanted a bit more out of this book.

This was an interesting story that I would recommend to those of you who are into satire especially as it relates to the workplace. It is an interesting look at the mundaneness of the work world and of people’s lives in general.

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