ANTARCTICA by Kim Stanley Robinson

This well-researched science fiction novel is set in a futuristic Antarctica, which is the last unspoiled wilderness of an overexploited Earth in a state of climate crisis. In this story, Antarctica and its oil resources are bones of contention among scientists, politicians, businessmen and environmentalists. When a radical environmentalist group wipes out the polar stations’ life support systems in an act of ecotage, the survivors must work together against the savage climate to save their lives. In the process, they must determine the continent’s future, and by extension, the future of the planet.

After an intriguing opening that sucked me right into the story, this book settled into a measured pace, in which the scene was carefully set with chapters of backstory for each of several main characters. One needed to commit to the read just a little bit. However, I found the story absolutely compelling. I have always had a fascination with wilderness survival stories, although the closest I’ve ever come to Arctic climes was Siberia…where (brief segue) I managed to come down with mononucleosis, strep throat, and bronchitis simultaneously, had to cut short my trip and return to Moscow in a rush. And I was deathly ill for 10 days after that, almost too sick to drag my trembling body out of bed. (If you’re an American living in Moscow, as a general rule you can starve to death in your apartment and no one will care. Although my friend the Russian doctor, who diagnosed and treated me over the phone, may well have saved my life!) Anyway, I suppose I’m better off reading about 70 below zero climates than actually experiencing them. :)

However, back to the novel. Both the history of Antarctic exploration and the deadly battle for survival against the elements were gripping in this book, and the environmental arguments for and against development were interesting. There was quite a bit of science and geology, so I “broke up” the story by interspersing it with chunks of a romance novel, which suited me quite nicely. The story roared through one hell of a climax to a strong happy ending, and I cared about the several sympathetic and interesting main characters who peopled the tale. Overall, this was a very diverting read. Now I’m on the lookout for Robinson’s Mars trilogy, about human colonization of a future Mars. And I’ve just absorbed into my library pile the novel SPIN by the same author. So I’ll blog about that one soon.

I’d recommend ANTARCTICA to anyone who enjoys wilderness survival stories, environmental disaster stories, techno-thrillers and “realistic” Earth-based science fiction. This was a solidly good story.


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