Premise: The world has succumbed to global warming and the polar ice caps have all but completely melted away, opening up the Arctic to previously inaccessible oil fields. Anika Duncan is on a routine patrol in her airship when she scans a ship and finds a radioactive signature. She goes in for a closer look but is shot down.
With her partner dead, assassins trying to kill her, the authorities constantly on her trail, and the threat of a nuclear weapon being set off, she doesn’t know who to trust. She goes on the run looking for answers and finds help in unlikely places: Roo, an agent-for-hire from the Caribbean, and Violet, a lesbian drug dealer that really likes Anika.
When Anika discovers there was something else on the ship of the people that shot her down, she realizes she is getting into the middle of a conflict that spans the globe but is quickly coming to a head in Thule, a city on the last chunk of ice in the Arctic, where leaders of the Gaia Corporation have plans for reversing the effects of global warming. The only problem is that it might just mean the beginning of another world war, with Anika right at its center.
Themes: Although Arctic Rising is science fiction, it is a political novel more than anything. In man’s lust for oil it has destroyed Earth through global warming. Power has shifted to oil companies and countries who have lower tax rates and move through open international waters. Gaia Corporation is an environmental group that has somehow gained power to the level of a powerful nation in spite of the destruction of the climate.
Though it is not a single incident we can point to, Arctic Rising is still a post-apocalyptic novel. Islands and coastlines have been devastated and destroyed, economies have shifted, the landscape of the world has been dramatically changed, and power has shifted between countries and corporations. Survival is a struggle as equatorial temperatures heat up and Arctic ice is turned to water.
This is also a story about trust, where Anika learns who she can trust even through such horrible global circumstances, but also must learn to trust on a personal level.
Pros: Arctic Rising is non-stop action with obvious nods to James Bond. Each of the characters have a voice of their own, and their interactions are believable and at times very visceral. While it seems impossible, the solution for fighting climate change was something new and curious, especially on the scale that Buckell puts forth here.
Cons: With its obvious environmental commentary, Arctic Rising was also fairly preachy in quite a few other topics, including global warming, politics, sexual orientation, and morality issues. Not only that, but it seems right around halfway through the book that the vulgarity was ramped up for no good reason, especially with swearing and sexual language. I also didn’t care for the description that was printed on the book itself because it simply gives too much away. Don’t put spoilers on the book!
Recommendations: In spite of the preachy messages in Arctic Rising, many with which I disagree, I still found myself enjoying the overall story. It should tell you something about the quality of the writing when someone who isn’t on board with the premise can still buy into the scientific speculation and recourse. I found Arctic Rising to be fast-paced, imaginative, and a surprising combination of action thriller and science fiction.