Author: Tobias S. Buckell
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Publication Date: March 2012
Hardcover: 304 pages
Global warming has transformed the Earth, and it’s about to get even hotter. The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing desperately to claim the massive amounts of oil beneath the newly accessible ocean.
Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming. Thousands of tiny mirrors floating in the air can create a giant sunshade, capable of redirecting heat and cooling the earth’s surface. They plan to terraform Earth to save it from itself—but in doing so, they have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen.
Anika Duncan is an airship pilot for the underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. She’s intent on capturing a smuggled nuclear weapon that has made it into the Polar Circle and bringing the smugglers to justice.
Anika finds herself caught up in a plot by a cabal of military agencies and corporations who want Gaia Corporation stopped. But when Gaia Corp loses control of their superweapon, it will be Anika who has to decide the future of the world. The nuclear weapon she has risked her life to find is the only thing that can stop the floating sunshade after it falls into the wrong hands.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone novel
How did I get this book: Review copy from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: As I’m a sucker for all things dystopian/post-apocalyptic and science fiction, I was thrilled to learn that Tobias Buckell’s new book hit both of these themes. Naturally, I was in.
After global warming has ravaged the earth and the polar ice caps have almost entirely melted, the world is a dramatically different place. With the recession of glaciers and ice that had previously covered inaccessible regions of Canada, Norway, Finland, Greenland, Iceland and other northern regions, a slew of rich natural resources are ripe for the taking. With a rush to move up north to mine the jewels, oil, and other precious natural commodities, the power balance and economics of the world shifts dramatically, and UN peacekeepers are enlisted to monitor and protect the exploited north.
Anika Duncan is one such UN worker, a pilot for the Polar Guard, charged with flyovers of the northern polar region and monitoring any abnormal behavior. Anika and her partner Tom are on a routine flyby, when they notice an uncleared freighter with abnormal – radioactive – cargo. The freighter fires on their ship, killing Tom and nearly drowning Anika. Angry and hungry for answers, Anika cannot let the mystery ship go and delves into the mystery of the freighter and its mysterious cargo in order to avenge her friend and prevent a catastrophe and corporate conspiracy of global proportions.
Arctic Rising explores a future world in which our ecosystem is irrevocably changed, and is essentially an eco-thriller with a politically astute and socio-economic edge. One thing I love about Buckell’s work is his attention to detail and his keen integration of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, and Arctic Rising is no exception. Heroine Anika is from Nigeria (the bi-racial daughter of a religious father and a Nollywood actress mother); the bubbly secondary character Vy is a Southern homegrown American girl with apple pie appeal (despite being the most successful drug dealer in the Northern region); Roo, a freelance spy, is from the (now submerged) Caribbean island region. There are gay characters, there are characters of varying race, social standing, and native background, and in a genre that is somewhat homogenous (especially in contemporary sci fi), this is really goddamn cool.
Of course, at its core, Arctic Rising is really a thriller – an ecological thriller with a political and socially conscious edge, that toes the line between science fiction and realism. Mr. Buckell excels in his envisioning of the repercussions of a world where the ice caps have almost completely melted, and I loved the extrapolation of this premise. This vision is brutally and painstakingly realized; it is a world where the lower lying islands and regions have been wiped out, where an entire new world order has been built around the resources of the north with new oil rigs being set up each day and tightened immigration and work permit laws. Beyond the worldbuilding implications, I also loved the tightly written action scenes in Arctic Rising, from interrogations, to high speed boat chases, to blow-by-blow fistfights, and more. My only problems with the book were with some of the less even pacing points – in between the action, there is a lot of exposition-ladling and some generous info-dumping. The story is also incredibly contained, only looking at the cross section of the northern region without exploring what is happening at other ends of the world (how are the regions of South and Central America handling the rising waters and temperatures, for example?).
These criticisms aside, I truly enjoyed reading Arctic Rising and recommend it to anyone hungering for a scifi thriller with an eco-bend.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From chapter one:
Centuries ago, the fifty-mile-wide mouth of the Lancaster Sound imprisoned ships in its icy bite. But today, the choppy polar waters between Baffin Island to the south of the sound, and Devon Island on the north, twinkled in the perpetual sunlight of the Arctic’s summer months, and tons of merchant traffic constantly sailed through the once impossible-to-pass Northwest Passage over the top of Canada.
A thousand feet over the frigid, but no longer freezing and icechoked waters, the seventy-five-meter-long United Nations Polar Guard airship Plover hung in a slow-moving air current. The turboprop engines growled to life as the fat, cigar-shaped vehicle adjusted course, then fell silent.
Inside the cabin of the airship, Anika Duncan checked her readings, then leaned over the matte-screened displays in the cockpit to look out the front windows.
The airship’s cabin had once held twelve passengers, but was now retrofitted with a bunk, a small kitchen area, supply closets, and a cramped navigation station. Tourists had once sat in the cabin underneath the giant gasbag as the airship glided over New York’s tallest buildings. After that tour of duty, the United Nations Polar Guard purchased it well used and very cheap.
Airships didn’t use much fuel. They could put observers into the air to monitor ship traffic for days at a time, wafting from position to position with air currents.
It saved money. And Anika knew the UNPG was always struggling with a lean budget. It showed on her paycheck, too.
“Which ship should we take a closer look at, Tom?” Anika asked.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE, via Tor.com.
Rating: 6 – Good
Reading Next: The Darkangel by Mary Ann Pierce
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