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Review: Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell

>>Thursday, March 1, 2012

Title: Arctic Rising
Author: Tobias S. Buckell
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Publication Date: February 28th, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books
Rating: 7

From Goodreads: 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.

Why did I read this book? I never read a book like this before, a science fiction thriller with a theme of climate change.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

My Review
I was a little apprehensive about reading Arctic Rising once I got the book in my hands, mainly because I haven’t read a book of this genre before (ecological thriller) and also because I was afraid of what it had to say about climate change would hit too close to home. Then I knew I had to read this book.

The Earth of Arctic Rising is a familiar one but with some major differences. The polar ice caps have all but melted away and it’s created a dramatic shift in politics, economy and ecology. Canada has an advantage, since they claim a lot of land in the Artic. There’s now a passageway that wasn’t possible before because of ice and this has caused people to take advantage of the vast waters. That’s where Anika comes in, the main character of the story. She’s a pilot of an airship that monitors the ships passing through – specifically to monitor for radioactive material being transported or dumped.

Then the unthinkable happens: Anika’s ship is shot down by a radioactive vessel and her partner is killed in the crash. As she tries to find out why this unjustified violence happened, a conspiracy emerges when the vessel’s crew and cargo all but disappears into the system. Worst of all, Anika becomes a suspect and finds herself a liability because she’s the only living witness to what went on that day she was shot out of the sky.

I was intrigued from the beginning of Arctic Rising, and once Anika went on the run from both the government and unknown assailants looking to kill off a witness, it was a fast ride. Arctic Rising has a very cinematic quality; there’s a good flow to the plot and many action-packed scenes. I could picture each scene and how it would be shot in a high budget movie, and that’s a good thing. However, like with all mysteries, I felt like until I got to the parts were we start getting the slow reveal of what’s going on, it was a bit hard to connect to the story. But about a third into the book, it really picked up and I was hooked.

One of the things I liked most is Anika. From her early appearances she solidified as a pretty awesome woman. After being attacked and almost murdered, she figures out who might be behind all this, and instead of running away she doesn’t hesitate and goes straight after them for answers. How many times does that happen in books? She’s a heroine that takes her fate into her own hands and does what she’s got to do.

Of course, what is a science fiction book without world building? In this future we see how global warming has altered the planet. The arctic is now a hub of activity and controversy. There are people trying to profit from it, but also those who are trying to reverse the damage. We also see the effects on other parts of the world through the character of Roo, a man from an island in the Caribbean. His island was flooded and sunk by the rising waters.

Rating: 7
Overall, after the first 50 pages or so, I was really into Arctic Rising. The mystery was good; I really didn’t know what was going to happen until the end. There’s a lot of action and it’s definitely a fast read. Most of all, I enjoyed the speculation on what the world would be like after global warming melts the arctic ice. I’d recommend this book to those looking for an exciting ecological thriller.

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