An archaeology team conducting research in the Canadian High Arctic confronts an environmental catastrophe in Will’s (The Wigwams in My Backyard, 2015) novel.
In 1980, Dr. Mike Borden and his carefully selected team of students receive funding to do an archaeological survey on Banks Island, part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Little do Mike and company know that the expedition will coincide with the Oglethorpe Event, a global disaster in the form of a solar storm. The novel’s realism is convincing from the outset, to the extent that it will be tempting for readers to investigate whether the fictional Oglethorpe Event actually occurred. The novel, told in the form of Mike’s diary, begins by detailing the team’s preparations for the expedition. Despite a chain of events ranging from the unfortunate to the tragic, the team remains focused on their goal. Their training includes a briefing on how to use radios and rifles, and how to manage supplies; the language in these passages has the necessary academic precision, although some readers may consider it dry: “We’ll also take two, small, portable gas stoves with us. One of them will act as a backup. They each have a single burner and weigh 2.5 pounds when full with white gas.” Despite Will’s admirable thoroughness, he might have spent significantly less time on such details in order to expand upon the team’s experiences and discoveries in the field. There, the team face all manner of dangers as they slowly come to terms with the fact that they’ve lost contact with a world that’s plunged into turmoil. The diary entries draw an intricate psychological profile of Mike as a character. However, they leave Mike’s team of graduates—Eric, Carla, and Kate—disappointingly underdeveloped. Furthermore, the fact that the Oglethorpe Event occurs without the team’s knowledge means that its impact is unsatisfyingly sketchy and reduced to a few explanatory paragraphs at the beginning of the story. These are minor complaints, though, which do little to detract from what’s mostly a carefully conceived, compelling novel.
A thought-provoking story that offers a delicate balance of archaeology and apocalyptic, extreme survival.