Arctic Rising

Tobias Bucknell’s Arctic Rising is a near-future science fiction techno-thriller that leads the cast, and the reader, at a breakneck paced tour of a thawed Arctic. Unfortunately for our heroine, she’s on this tour because someone really is out to get her. Fortunately for the reader, figuring out who turns up a grand scheme that keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

It’s also kind of a pre-apocalyptic story of eco-terrorism. What do I mean by pre-apocalyptic? The apocalypse hasn’t happened, yet, but if events in this story go pear-shaped, well, you can definitely see the apocalypse from here.

Anika Duncan begins the story as an airship pilot for the United National Polar Guard. The UNPG has airships patrolling the waters of the Arctic Circle to check for drug smuggling and occasionally nuclear waste dumping. Why? Because airships (read blimps) are cheap on fuel and fossil fuels are expensive and running out. Why are they needed? Because the Arctic Ice Cap has melted, and all that ocean is pretty empty. There’s nobody looking. Nuclear waste, as we already know, is a pain to get rid of. Dumping it in deep water no one is watching is cheap.

But when Anika’s gear pings a radioactive hotspot on the ship below her, she sets of a chain reaction of events much bigger than she could ever have imagined. The crew of the unidentified ship brings out heavy artillery and brings down her ship. Then they ram the debris. Crash landing in the Arctic Ocean is a fast way to die of hypothermia.

Anika’s co-pilot makes it to the hospital, but dies of his injuries. Anika did a better job getting her survival suit zipped up, so she is okay physically, but someone tries to run her off the road. And that’s only the first attempt on her life. Her house is blown up. She’s arrested by men who have no identity.

A friend —  who wants to be her girlfriend — smuggles her out. Anika’s friend Vy is a criminal, but Vy has connections. Right now, Anika needs friends in low-places just to figure out what is going on. But the more she discovers, the crazier things get. And the more collateral damage piles up around her.

Somebody wants to terraform the Earth, to turn back the global warming clock. They’ve even found a way to do it. But there are a lot of powerful people and corporations who like things just fine the way they are, and don’t want to change. They’re willing to let the future take care of itself.

Some of those people have found a nuke. Anika and her friends are caught in the middle. At Ground Zero.

Escape Rating A-: This is one of those books where you just saddle up and hang on for the ride. The story is all about the thrills and chills, and it has plenty.

Something about this story that ties into reality is the opening of the Northwest Passage. In the 1800s, explorers searched, and died, seeking the fabled Northwest Passage over the top of Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. The story of Sir John Franklin’s Expedition is especially interesting, because they found mummies from some members of the party in the 1980s.

The Northwest Passage is opening. Bowhead and gray whales have managed to make the crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic through the Passage for the first time in centuries. A cruise ship sailed through the Passage in 2006 and a commercial freighter in 2008.

The other neat, funny, cool thing was the portrait of the new Arctic as the really, really last frontier, the place where everyone gets to be an extreme individualist. I lived in Anchorage for three years, and Bucknell’s portrait of the new Arctic was Alaska taken several steps further. Which totally worked.

Arctic Rising is one of those books where you read it and you keep thinking that things can’t get any crazier for the main characters, and yet, they do. And it just makes you want to keep reading even more!