This last installment of an eco-fiction trilogy continues to explore the future history of an unfrozen Antarctica.
In the not-so-distant future, the melting of the polar ice caps has left Antarctica clear for human habitation. Many of the first-generation settlers, like President of Antarctica John Barrous, are hoping to build a fair, democratic, and environmentally conscious society free of the powerful corporations that helped ruin the rest of the world. With the help of the United Nations, hundreds of cold-climate animal species have been relocated to Antarctica’s Concordia Refuge, but they are now being threatened by poachers from a breakaway Christian cult led by the mysterious Ivan Zoric: “The sparse information on Zoric portrayed a man of humble beginnings morphing into an intelligent, charismatic fanatic. An exquisite manipulator to be sure, but was he the madman others rumored him to be?” John tussles with Zoric over a possible murder investigation, but the issue is brought to a head when a team of scientists working on the refuge, including John’s daughter, Ginnie, and his former girlfriend Lowry Walker, is kidnapped by the cult. The quest to get them back alive will take John out of the ordered streets of his capital, Amundsen, and into the still-wild backcountry of the land he supposedly governs. Lanning’s (The Sting of the Bee, 2018, etc.) prose perfectly summons her winter utopia—Currier & Ives filtered through Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke: “A late winter storm had dropped a blanket of fresh snow overnight. After lunch, the clouds broke, and the sunlight sparkled on the snow as she glided across an open snowfield on her hovershoes.” The attention paid to the technology, economy, and environmental science of John’s Antarctica is far more compelling than one might think and helps increase its verisimilitude. The plot unfurls slowly but deliberatively, and though it at times feels more like a Western than a sci-fi novel, readers will always be along for the ride. Like the best eco-fiction, Lanning’s tale will get the audience thinking seriously about the effect every human endeavor has on the ecosystem without sacrificing characters and story.
An imaginative, environmentally minded work of sci-fi.