July 10, 2020

13° C, Fair

Full Forecast

Close this


Advertise With Us

Sci-fi novel more skeleton screenplay

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/3/2012 (3042 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THIS commercial sci-fi thriller has a premise that should interest ecologically minded Canadians.

It is set in the near future, when global warming has melted almost all of the ice in the Arctic Circle. The female protagonist, Anika, is a "Polar Guard" pilot whose aircraft is shot down by a ship carrying an unauthorized nuclear weapon.

She becomes involved in an underground search for the smugglers, the nuke and the reasons behind its presence.

Thrillers like these can be quick, suspenseful and thoroughly entertaining.

And then there's another type: A skeleton screenplay masquerading as a novel, zipping along through all-too-familiar plot points: evil Russians (check); untimely death of a tough friend with a heart of gold (check); double agents (check); open ending with the obvious intention of writing a sequel (sigh).

Guess which type Arctic Rising is?

American author Tobias S. Buckell's last novel was written for the Halo series, based on the popular video game, and got mixed reviews.

In Arctic Rising, Canadians will get a kick out of our country's status as one of the "Arctic Tigers," national superpowers with access to the circle's newly exposed resources and trade routes.

However, the consequences of the ice melt are extremely complex and Buckell struggles to explore them all.

His most elaborate creation is a new polar country, Thule, established on the shrinking Arctic Circle. Inhabitants use refrigeration cables to ensure the remaining ice stays frozen (yes, you read that correctly).

Thule is made up of a number of different "demesnes," all governed according to different systems (including a benevolent dictatorship, and a participatory budget democracy with volunteer municipal forces -- at one point Anika finds herself in a strip club that is run as a worker co-operative).

Sound complicated? It is. Throughout the book, Buckell tries to cover too much, and ends up covering too little, so the plot feels like a number of potentially great stories flung together without enough detail or thought.

Buckell's characters do have potential; the women in particular manage to escape stereotypical thriller-treatment. Anika is strong, if flawed. Brief descriptions of her difficult childhood in Nigeria are interesting, and readers care enough to root for her in a series of knockdown fights.

We also learn, several chapters in, that she's a lesbian, and her romantic relationship is handled casually, without being exploited for shock value.

By the novel's climax, however, things have become very scattered. A seemingly endless parade of soldiers, government workers and environmental activists appear and disappear, crammed between a ludicrous number of location and plot changes.

The final showdown has a few false starts, mainly because as more information is revealed, Anika suddenly decides (spoiler alert!) to switch sides. In real life there are grey areas when it comes to good and evil, but Buckell, whose prose is thoroughly pedestrian, is not up to the task of dealing with such nuances.

In the end, readers do not know what Buckell thinks we should do about global warming, corporate-government relations, or any of the novel's other issues. More important, they will not care enough to try to find out.

Leezann Freed-Lobchuk is an intern for the Manitoba Legislative Assembly.

Arctic Rising

By Tobias S. Buckell

Tom Doherty Associates, 304 pages, $29


Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.


Advertise With Us