Can you stay cool while it’s getting hot? Environmental concerns and the threat of global warming are topics that everyone should be concerned about, and they have also played into the plots of SF books like the brilliant Paolo Bacigalupi novel The Wind-Up Girl and even Cormac McCarthy’s New York Times bestselling novel The Road.
Tobias S. Buckell’s latest page-turning novel, Arctic Rising, is about a time in the not-so-distant future when the polar ice caps are melting due to global warming. Though I like reading just about any type of SF, I especially like reading those in which the plot seems very plausible because the future depicted is based on trends, events, or scientific theories that are prevalent today. To me, that basis in reality makes books like Arctic Rising seem more relevant and gripping.
In Buckell’s book, global warming has caused the polar ice caps to partially thaw and calve off icebergs, which in turn causes lowland coastal flooding, and opens up the Northwest Passage and uncovers land that has been encased in ice for thousands of years. The land is called Thule. New communities form in Canada, and it becomes an economic powerhouse. The United States and other nations try to claim parts of the sea bed, in their ever-continuing efforts to locate new oil and other mineral reserves. But, others seek to use the newly navigable oceanic highways to transport drugs and illegally dump nuclear waste material.
The main female protagonist of Arctic Rising is the Nigerian airship pilot (working for the underfunded United Nations Poar Guard) Anika Duncan. She and her UNPG copilot, Thomas Hutton, soar in the skies above the frigid polar seas in search of suspicious ships that might be transporting drugs or radioactive waste to dump. Anika notices that the scatter cameras on the airship are detecting that one such suspicious ship, the Russian Kosatka, registered in Liberia, is emitting strong radioactive readings. When they come in closer to investigate, someone aboard the ship opens fire with a RPG launcher, bringing Anika’s airship crashing down into the ocean.
By the time a ship rescues them and helicopters come to take them to where they can obtain further medical attention, theKosatka is long gone. Though they both are alive when pulled from the ocean, Tom’s protective uniform wasn’t zipped up properly and let in the icy water, bringing on hyperthermia. He dies from it, and Anika is more determined than ever to learn why their airship was attacked and what the Russian ship had been transporting. She knows that the rewards could be high for those captains who loaded up old derelicts with radioactive waste and had “accidents” off the coast of African nations, and believes that perhaps the Kosatka was involved in similar illegal activities.
When the ship is found, and the crew arrested, no sign of whatever cargo might have been onboard is in sight. Fortunately, Anika has kept a recording of the evidence gathered by the scatter cameras to prove that the Russian ship had been transporting something radioactive; but, someone, or ones, seem determined to hush the investigation. Why are various military agencies and corporations suddenly getting involved? Could it be that the crew was trying to smuggle a nuclear weapon of some sort?
Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell, who also wrote the bestselling novel Halo: The Cole Protocol, is a suspenseful book that is sure to stay with you and open your eyes to what might happen if global warming continues at its present rate. The activist group Gaia Corporation, which tries to use technology to reverse global warming and which has a plan to terraform the Earth, also create a superweapon that falls into the wrong hands. When Anika goes undercover and attempts to stop the Gaia Corp’s weapon, the action really picks up and makes for a fast-paced, exciting read. If you like very realistic science fiction thrillers, I highly recommend that you add Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell to your reading lists.