Review: Arctic Rising

Posted: February 13, 2015 by in Books that are Mediocre (3/5 single_star) Meta: Tobias Buckell, Science Fiction

This one was a while in coming. I picked it up after reading Tobias Buckell’s short story compilation, Nascence, on my own because he was an author that I had often heard good things about but had never taken the opportunity to read, and because the compilation was aimed toward authors in training. The collection worked for about the first two-thirds.  The rest was reserved for different iterations of the same story that wasn’t so short and honestly kinda boring. But it was pretty decent up until that point, and I decided to give him another go.

ARCTIC RISING (Amazon) is a stand-alone, near-future, single-idea science fiction story (Whadd’ya think about all those fancy sub-genre modifiers? Impressive, eh?) that has a really interesting premise but doesn’t ever become bigger than the sum of its parts.

Global warming has hit the earth hard, and the polar ice caps have essentially melted away. In that wake, entities across the globe are in a race to access oil from the newly accessible surface of the sea. (A science fictional idea that has already become moot with the advent of directional well drilling, but I digress.) The Gaia corporation, intent on terraforming large portions of the Earth, stumble across a discovery and invent a tool that not only changes what they’ll be able to accomplish, but makes available a completely new realm of weapon. One that every bad guy on the planet is going to want.

The story starts with a bang. Literally. Anika Duncan, pilot for the United Nations Polar Guard, is shot out of the air with an RPG when she gets a little too close to a boat that doesn’t want to be noticed. After a rescue (not a spoiler here, if she died that this point the books would have been done a handful of pages into the first chapter) she quickly gets “wrapped up” in a massive conflict between military entities and corporations dealing with the technology involving the Gaia company’s new invention. This starts as a manhunt for Anika because of the data that she collected on the boat carrying her buddy with the RPG launcher. Okay, maybe he wasn’t really her buddy, but you get the picture.

ARCTIC RISING is decent science fiction, with a strong single concept, that didn't end up delivering for me by the end, but it's well-told and engaging.

This portion of the book was fast-paced and interesting. Character development is fairly well-done, the fleshing out of the world at large is completed, but we still don’t really know much about this new invention or why everyone is clamoring for it. Then about midway through the book, the story takes a sharp veer into left-field. Danger zone. A public announcement is made of what Gaia has been doing. Thus nullifying any need for Anika to be caught by the “bad guys” or her sought-after data intercepted and destroyed. At this point, our main and only character with POV time becomes pointless. Nobody really wants or needs her any more, and yet through situation after situation she gets “wrapped up” and carried along so that we can see all of the fallout that begins to occur when this new technology is presented to the public. So, the ending, when it came, didn’t really have any impact and fell pretty short of my expectations, despite being pretty action-packed and full of new-weapon chaos fallout.

Although, I have to admit, the new technology/weapon is a pretty freaking cool idea. Still, the majority of the book seemed to focus more on the way that various entities across the world were going to deal with that new technology rather than something more interesting. A point, I have to accede, that is very prominent in most science fiction (dealing with new technology) and so I can’t really complain overly much.

In the end, I thought it was a decent book, with a strong single concept, that didn’t end up delivering by the end. There’s much better single-idea science fiction out there. Say, David Louis Edelman‘s Jump 225 Trilogy (EBR Archive). I probably wouldn’t turn down another ride with Buckell though. There’s a lot worse out there, after all. 🙂

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: In general not too much, but there are a couple scenes that get pretty graphic
  • Violence: Strong but infrequent
  • Sex: Some sexual tension and kissing between two female characters

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