Snow Over Utopia by Rudolfo A. Serna
Publisher: Apex Book Company | Release Date: July 16, 2019 | Pages: 192
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Are we in the middle of a post-apocalyptic resurgence in fiction? Just in the last month alone I’ve read two new novels in this sub genre. Both of them dealt with Life After in very different ways. One focused on class and clinging onto the way life used to be. Then there is Snow Over Utopia from Rudolfo A. Serna. In this mind-bending novel we jump way into the future to see how future generations manipulate science for their own needs while nature takes the law into her own hands to fight back. Snow Over Utopia takes cues from Cormac McCarthy, Mad Max, and biohacking stories to create a beautifully haunting tale that, while overwhelming at times, delivers a powerful message of hope and trust.
Serna’s love of McCarthy novels is all over this book. The use of nicknames, the long sections of descriptive prose, the verbose use of language, it’s all here. It is an amazing thing to behold, but at times seems to get so caught up in style that we lose the plot. There is so much flash that it takes us a while to realize what is happening. I found myself rereading passages to make sure that mutantoids were in fact speaking through a skull or that a posse killed their leader for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, though — I loved watching Serna weave this magic. A number of times my mouth hung open after witnessing Serna’s power over language. But, much like McCarthy, I think I found myself more focused on what he was doing than on what was happening in the story.
Mad Max is all over this book and I loved every second of it. It’s not just the post-apocalyptic setting, it’s the weirdness of the world. Utopia is a city under a dome in the middle of a frozen wasteland. The citizens are all clones that don’t have to do anything but drink, have orgies, and watch the old die in epic battles against robotic beasts. Mutantoids live underground and pull the strings on everything that is happening above them. There are people who I believe made themselves into cat-people. And much like Mad Max, Serna explains some of it and leaves the rest up to our imagination. These things are like this just because and it is awesome. It’s a crazy world and Serna made it a beautiful thing to behold.
Throughout Snow Over Utopia we get little hints about nature and what it is doing to take back the world. This revolves around biohacking. It’s a very interesting concept that we don’t fully understand until the very end. Which leads us to the fact that Serna loves dropping clues and pieces of information then letting us sit to see how it’ll play out. In fact, he introduces us to the mutantoids near the beginning of the story but they disappear for a long time before they come back. We see their influence, but it’s just a taste and not the whole meal. This is also the case with nature’s plan. Serna hints here and there, maybe even giving us the whole picture, but we don’t know that until he is ready for us to understand. And when we do, it’s spectacular. A lot of what he does with nature was new to me and I am really interested in knowing if there are other stories that play around with nature using programming to get what it wants.
Serna has a lot of fun making his prose do some wild things. Time jumps around between the past and present willy-nilly without giving us much warning. So, one paragraph might be in the present and the next might jump to some point in the past. We might also linger on a character after the scene is finished, spending time with them while the main plot is somewhere else. This might throw a reader off but once you get used to it, you realize it’s filling in the gaps or building the world. It took me a little bit to understand what was happening, flipping back a few pages to make sure I didn’t skip something. But, I should have just trusted in Serna because he always brings us back to the action, we never truly are lost.
The more I sat with Snow Over Utopia the more I enjoyed it. I can see it not being for everyone, and if you are not paying attention you might not understand what’s happening. However, Serna’s prose is beautiful and masterful. Despite the bleakness of the world, it is actually a really encouraging story about how we should just trust that nature can take care of the world. I believe Serna is going to be a name on a lot of people’s lists of the next big thing and deservedly so. I cannot wait to read what he writes next.