Last seen in 1906, a frozen explorer, thawed by a scientist/entrepreneur, confounds present-day Boston.
When a modern Arctic expedition, at the behest of megalomaniac Nobel-seeker Erastus Carthage, discovers a man encased in “hard-ice” (a supercold, cryogenically fortuitous iceberg), all hell breaks loose. The man, dubbed Subject One, is brought back to Boston, revived in Carthage’s top-secret lab facility and gradually introduced to 21st-century America. The “specimen” is soon revealed as a native of nearby Lynn, Mass., Jeremiah Rice, a district court judge who had tagged along on a doomed Arctic expedition. The story relays from Rice to Carthage, a bloviating tyrant with a hand-sanitizer fetish. Narrators also include the smarmy second-tier journalist Daniel Dixon (a type recognizable from Tom Wolfe novels), who has somehow wangled an exclusive on the “re-awakening,” and Kate Philo, Ph.D., a biologist who wants to remove Jeremiah from the prison of clinical observation to give him a chance at a normal life. The suspenseful plot hinges largely on three questions: How many colleagues can Carthage ruin without fouling his own nest; will the chaste courtship of Rice and his protectress, Philo, morph into actual carnal relations; and, most compelling, when does Rice’s new lease expire? Working feverishly, some of the nerdier members of the revivification team have discovered that every life form similarly resuscitated has expired within days—after a brief honeymoon period, the organism goes on endocrine overdrive and self-destructs. Rice seems to have beaten these odds, and a methodical British staffer is closing in on a way to arrest this deadly metabolic frenzy—until Carthage fires him. As Rice issues his gentle jeremiads about the violence, profanity, licentiousness and overall insanity of our world as compared with that of the world at the turn of the 20th century, other, more intriguing lines of inquiry go unexplored, e.g. the impact on Rice’s descendants, if any. The ending, if not exactly ingenious, is at least fitting and somewhat touching.
A derivative but unmistakably engaging debut.