Review of “Moon of the Crusted Snow” by Waubgeshig Rice 

This post-apocalyptic story is set in a small Anishinaabe community in a far north Canadian community. Evan Whitesky, 24, has a family of four, and had been trying to keep alive his Ojibwe culture, which had always been marked by a communitarian spirit.

Suddenly, all that changes when television, phone, and internet services all go down, with the community totally cut off from the rest of the world, including from deliveries of food and oil.

After two of their young community members returned from college on stolen snowmobiles, bearing tales of outages, hunger, and violence in the city, fear ran rampant. It became difficult to maintain order, all the more so when some outsiders arrived seeking refuge.

Most of the story takes place during the first long winter during this apocalypse, when blizzards made travel almost impossible, and the residents couldn’t even bury the increasing numbers of dead, mostly lost to sickness, violence, freezing to death, or by suicide. Readers see how various members of the tribe respond to the ongoing crisis, reactions determined by either fear and greed on the one hand, or by the persistent adherence to Anishinaabe values on the other. It is unclear, however, who will survive and who will not.

An Epilogue takes place two years after the story began.

Evaluation: Post-apocalyptic stories have a certain bleak sameness about them, but this one poses the interesting question of how people with life-long communitarian values could make a difference, at least for a while. The fact that native peoples have always had to find a way to endure even as whites took away their land and resources is another factor that plays into the survival equation. Rice injects a number of Anishinaabe words and information about cultural practices into the story, similar to what one finds in the William Kent Krueger crime series featuring Cork O’Connor, the part-Irish, part-Anishinaabe Indian ex-sheriff of the small town of Aurora, Minnesota. It is a culture that, at least as portrayed by these two authors, has much to offer to non-natives open to other ways of interacting with their environments.

Note: This book received the 2019 John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by ECW Press, 2018

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