A fairly common presumption exists within the realm of fiction (notably much maligned indie or self-published fiction) that a book must either be a highfalutin work of literature or crowd-pleasing fast-food genre fare—and never the twain shall meet. An ugly and rigid bit of dogma that stymies the imaginative potential of our collective storytelling.
It was with great pleasure, then, that I devoured Peter Hackshaw’s debut novel, Ever Winter—a veritable mélange of inspirations and genres carefully blended into one rousing adventure of villainy and vengeance across a far future world beset by a mysterious new Ice Age. Part post-apocalyptic thriller, part pulp- vigilante revenge tale, part Verhoevian military science fiction, part fairy tale parable—all rendered in surprisingly artful prose which invokes, in turn, the poetic flair of Ballard, the pulpy energy of King, and the romanticism of Dumas.
Such clashing styles and influences ought not have come together into something cohesive. But they did. Because rather than wearing his inspirations on his sleeve, Hackshaw discovers their common thematic thread and weaves his seemingly disparate elements into one distinctive whole. Not every element is completely successful—a few supporting characters and their side plots feel somewhat incidental; even dispensable. But these do little to detract from what Hackshaw does right:
This is a dark and engrossing journey, fueled by flesh-and-blood characters, bolstered by smart and subtle world-building, and anchored by ever relevant and perennial themes—a keen meditation on the roots of human malice and the phenomenon of human mercy.
[Note: this review is based solely upon a reading of the paperback edition. But having listened to its audiobook version, I feel it is worth special mention; it being not a straightforward narration, but a spirited and evocative one-man performance by actor Dan Stevens. Highly entertaining, highly recommended.]