WHITE-OUT by James Vance Marshall


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Both stirring and touching, a novel about surviving a gamut of ordeals.

In 1942, a young, adventurous officer in England’s Royal Navy volunteers for a mission that will take him to Antarctica. Lt. James Lockwood thinks he’s part of a task force charged with deploying a secret weather station to play a role in combating submarine warfare, and he’s right, up to that point. But there are secrets within secrets. All that his commander, Captain Ede, will acknowledge is that he has sealed orders—for the mission head’s eyes only. By this time, however, Lockwood has fallen so irrevocably in love with the starkly beautiful land he’s come to that almost everything else is irrelevant. And the fact is the weather station does matter, regardless of what’s being concealed by the Royal Navy. The station’s existence is accidentally discovered. The German U-boat commander who stumbles on it shells it mercilessly, intent on leveling the station and killing all who manned it. Lockwood, elsewhere on assignment, escapes, then finds himself in a Robinson Crusoe position, marooned on 20 million square miles of ice-bound continent, “as effectively cut off from the rest of the world as if he had been on the moon.” Through sheer force of will, dauntless courage, and some luck, he makes it back home—only to be viewed darkly by the British Admiralty. How close, his superiors wonder, did Lockwood get to their hidden agenda? Now, though, with a hidden agenda of his own, he tells them repeatedly: “The past is another country. And I don’t live there any more.”

Marshall (Walkabout, 1984, a YA) gives us an unconventional hero—likable and admirable, if a shade remote. Still, if you’re an environmentalist or, at the very least, a sympathizer, this is a book for you.

Pub Date: Dec. 11th, 2000
ISBN: 1-56947-224-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Soho
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2000