Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson

This novel published in 1998 is set in an imagined Antarctica of the early twenty-first century

There is an odd feeling of reading about a future that isn't quite the future but nor is it the present that it's somehow supposed to be. Other than that though, this is an excellent piece of speculative fiction - gripping and meticulously researched (Robinson spent time in Antarctica as part of the US Antarctic Program's Artist and Writer Program).

This is an Antarctica fought over by African oil companies and eco terrorists while scientists continue their studies and an international group of 'ferals' try to develop an indigenous way of life on the continent. Meanwhile Val leads groups of tourists on extreme adventures, recreating the journeys of the original polar explorers. Stories of these explorers intercut the narrative in a very effective manner, giving the reader a sense of the real history of the continent.

The narrative is very intense in places, there are long passages outlining scientific experiments, political manoeverings and an expedition that Val leads, which doesn't go to plan.

The technology is worked into the narrative really well, wristwatch computers, recordings a trek participant makes for TV-masks and the intelligent fabrics that everyone's clothes are made from. Similarly the ideas around the ferals' construction of a potentially permanent way of life are well explored.

It's a compelling read and one that makes the reader think deeply about the future of the world's last great wilderness. And as this month marks the centenary of Scott's failed expedition to reach the South Pole, what better time to read this book?

Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson published by Voyager

I reviewed this book for Brighton Blogger's 2012 Reading Challenge. I also reviewed The Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrich Christian Delius.

9 comments:

Carol Steel 5050 said...

Sounds like a great read and an opportunity to learn.

FARfetched said...

His Mars Trilogy (Red Mars/Green Mars/Blue Mars) touched on many of the same themes, against the backdrop of terraforming Mars. Even the "ferals" make an appearance.

Titus said...

Thank you Poet, husband's in hospital and crying out for books, so hopefully Waterstone's (or is that Waterstones?) will have this in the morning!

Gabrielle Bryden said...

Thanks for the review - sounds fascinating. I wanted to work in Antartica when I was younger - still want to get there somehow.

Rabbits' Guy said...

BRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr .....

the cuby poet said...

I am a particular lover of Arctic writing but maybe this Antarctic read is worth a read you certainly make it sound as if it is. Thanks for the info.

HKatz said...

Thanks for the recommendation and well-written review.

I've recently finished a collection of short stories called Brave New Worlds: basically all the stories are dystopias. For several I can remember the dystopia arises because of an environmental catastrophe or diminishing resources. The stories are thought-provoking.

Ellie Warren said...

I often sit back and think we really are living in the future now. I think books like this really highlight that, not written all that long ago but imagining such amazing things as tiny computers we can take everywhere!

A Question Of ITIL said...

Great writer!
2312 is coming out this week! It promises to be amazing!

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