Simon Bisson (sbisson) wrote,
Simon Bisson

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The Tursday Luchtime "Two Reviews In One Day?" Review: Antarctica

If we ever go to Mars, Antarctica is going to be a likely training ground. It's cold, inhospitable and dangerous - but still beautiful and alluring. The author of the Mars trilogy Kim Stanley Robinson had the opportunity to go down south, as part of the US Antarctic presence's writers and artists programme. The result (along with some of the work on the Mars books) was Antarctica.

Antarctica is a continent given over to science, but in the early part of the 21st century the treaty that governs its development is due to expire. Robinson's novel is set just after its expiry, when politics in the rich North have given the poor South a foothold on the frozen continent, and a chance to extract its riches. A lovesick worker, a freelance tour adventure tour guide and a US Congress staffer are about to find their lives changed completely by the frozen continent. And at the end of their story we may find a new way of living with the Earth...

Perhaps it is the Mars trilogy writ small, but Antarctica is a story of a culture on the verge of becoming something new, of a world trying to find its way outside the trap of its history, and of people just trying to live thee lives, but finding themselves driven to make a difference. Yes, this is the engine of history, of government. It makes Antarctica an intensely political novel, but one that remains true to its roots as story, and so one that is hard to put down. It's also a novel about science, on a par with Paul McAuley's The Secret Of Life in its true life depiction of real, working scientists.

This is Stan at his best, angry at the way we treat the world, hopeful that we can find a way to solve our problems. Antarctica may well prove to be his Stand On Zanzibar, as he begins to inherit the mantle of John Brunner.

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