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Arctic Rising - Tobias Buckell (and giveaway!)

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Arctic Rising - Tobias Buckell (and giveaway!)

Arctic Rising is the best James Bond novel I've ever read. Wait, what? Indeed Tobias Buckell's latest novel could be taken as an Ian Fleming experiment gone terribly... right. An ironic homage to Bond, based on gads of research into the nature of climate change and some of the more inventive solutions, Buckell has created a near term speculative novel that's as current as it is authentic. Believable? Let's not get greedy; I did say Bond after all.

Buckell's premise begins a few years in the future, where global warming has transformed the Earth. The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing to claim the oil beneath the newly accessible ocean. Enter Gaia Corporation whose founders have come up with a plan to roll it all back using thousands of tiny mirrors floating in the air to redirect heat and cool the Earth's surface.

The protagonist is Anika Duncan, Buckell's first piece of Bond irony. She's a black lesbian, tough as nails, but far from a trained covert operative. She's an airship pilot for the underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. It's her job to ensure things run smoothly in the new Wild West. When a smuggled nuclear weapon makes it into the Polar Circle on Anika's watch, she winds up caught up in a plot to destroy Gaia Corporation and with it Earth's hope the future.

When I read the synopsis for Arctic Rising last winter, I was skeptical. I was aware of Buckell's relationship with Karl Schroeder and Paola Bacigalupi, two staunch environmental advocates, and of his own interest in environmentalism. It concerned me that Buckell was tackling climate change, and setting it in such a near future. The possibilities for political commentary, finger pointing, and hair shirt environmentalism were rife. My cynicism was completely unwarranted. Buckell uses well founded research to weave an argument not just for environmental reforms, but also against extremism and unilateral policy making. The end result is an even handed novel that will appeal (almost) equally to readers on both sides of the proverbial aisle.

In truth, Arctic Rising is far more of a thriller (see Bond) than other recent ecocentric novels like The Wind Up Girl (Bacigalupi) or Seed (Rob Ziegler). Buckell makes a few points here and there about the inevitability of climate change, and few more about how the world might go about solving them. Meanwhile, the focus remains on a breakneck story that would fit neatly into any host of genres. Anika has to save the world with the help of a few friends from an out of control corporate oligarchy bent on winning at any cost. And she might just fall in love on the way.

And therein lies the strength of Buckell's latest novel -- Anika. She embodies what makes Buckell such a dynamic voice in a sea of historical homogeny. The dashingly handsome white male, well trained and supremely confident, that so pervades this type of fiction, is absent. I mentioned Anika is a black lesbian. I should also mention she's completely believable in her sexuality and ethnicity. There's never a moment when I felt she was written by a man and despite numerous opportunities, she never turns into the Xena Warrior Princess action hero (thank God). She's a real woman in unreal circumstances. A third world native living in the developed world, I can't help but believe that Buckell's life experiences as a Caribbean man moving to the States pervade Anika. I know for sure that those values light up the page with their conviction.

Is the novel a little absurd? Well, yes. The major plot device involves millions of floating mirrors capable of redirecting the sun. A conspiracy surrounds it all that calls to mind Mel Gibson's Conspiracy Theory (1997), as unlikely as it is fun to imagine. Buckell balances that unreality with the truth of Earth's rising temperatures and the frenetic grab for natural resources that continues unabated throughout the world. That balance allows Buckell to take a stance on an issue, invite his reader to listen, and keep them there through a compelling and exciting story. Like Saladin Ahmed's recent debut, Throne of the Crescent Moon, Arctic Rising is a novel with a point of view. And that's something James Bond never seemed to have -- Ian Fleming, eat your heart out.

Arctic Rising comes with my highest recommendation. It's due out in Hardcover and eBook tomorrow, February 28. You should read it. Learn more about Tobias Buckell on Twitter or at his blog.



I have one (1) copy of Arctic Rising to 
give away courtesy of Tor.

Giveaway Details:

This giveaway is open only to residents of the United States and Canada.  You must be 18 years of age or older to participate. Void where prohibited by law. Giveaway rules are subject to change.  

How to participate:
  • To enter the giveawaye-mail me at, with the subject ICE CAPS, including a valid mailing address.
  • One entry per person, or face disqualification.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm ET on March 5, 2012.
  • Winners will be chosen by random sorting entries, and then using a random number generator.
  • There will be one (1) winners who will received one (1) book.

Although not required, it sure would be nice if you:

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At February 27, 2012 at 8:46 AM , Blogger RobB said...

"The best James Bond novel starring a Black Lesbian as James Bond!"

Yeah, I liked this one a lot too, but that's been the case with all the fiction I've read by Tobias. Putting together my review, I was waffling on whether or not I should even use the ol' James Bond comparison, then I thought if the characters could hang the lamp on it, so could I.

At February 27, 2012 at 8:57 AM , Blogger Paul Weimer said...

Thanks Justin.

I actually think Roo is more the James Bond of the book than Anika, and keyed on that for my own review...which should be going live soon (I hope).

At February 27, 2012 at 10:00 AM , Blogger Patrick said...

I don't know if you should have thrown the "global cooling mirrors"/Gaia info out there in the review as some would consider that spoilerish material.

I also think that characterizing Anika first and foremost as a black lesbian might get you into trouble. While she is 1) black and 2) lesbian, Anika vastly surpasses that seemingly stereotypical description thanks to Buckell's characterization. Anika is first and foremost a strong but conflicted protagonist who was caught in the wrong place in the wrong time and is determined to avenge her friends. That she is also black and lesbian is important to her character but those two words don't define her.

At February 27, 2012 at 10:06 AM , Blogger Justin said...

On the first point, it's all over the back of the book.

On the second, I agree. But those points are part of the contrast he's drawing to the Bond novels. The fact she's black and lesbian is central to that character. Is it all she's got? Absolutely not. There's a ton of depth there, but to ignore those two items in favor of the rest would be counter productive to the discussion... I think. I hope the sentences after my use of the terms 1) black and 2) lesbian make that point. But, maybe not.

At February 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM , Anonymous Stefan (Far Beyond Reality) said...

My review will be going up any time now on, and I'm calling them out because they included all sorts of spoilers in the synopsis on the inside flap. You can read it on the GoodReads page. Justin didn't really say anything that's not on the book cover, but I feel it shouldn't be on the cover - or in reviews, for that matter. Tobias Buckell has a different, shorter plot summary on his own page, which may have something to do with those spoilers. I'm actually suggesting that people avoid the synopsis on the book cover and just read the book.

On the second point - I agree with Paul that Roo is more the Bond figure in the novel that Anika. Anika is a kick-ass female protagonist though. I just realized that I didn't mention she's a lesbian at all - it didn't register for me as that important. I did mention she's Nigerian-born.

At February 27, 2012 at 10:46 AM , Blogger Justin said...

I can see that point, although if we're assuming this is an homage, but also a spoof of James Bond, then Anika is the Bond character (which I am). She's the twisting of the Bond trope for the protagonist. Roo, is the Felix Leiter maybe ;)

At February 27, 2012 at 8:33 PM , Blogger Ryan said...

Guess I'll be the one dude who comments and hasn't yet read the book...

Great review, as per usual. I definitely want to give this one a read. From your review and others I've read this sounds like something I'd definitely enjoy. Been wanting to read something by Buckell for awhile now anyway, guess I'd better go and enter that giveaway.

At March 3, 2012 at 4:17 PM , Blogger Cassandra @ Book & Movie Dimension a Blog said...

Arctic Rising sounds very fantastic.
Will have to add to books to-read.


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