Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell (book review).

May 26, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

Tobias S. Buckell was born in the Caribbean, a long way from the Arctic! But he spent his younger days on boats in the British and US Virgin Islands, explaining his obviously in-depth knowledge of sea-craft, which feature heavily in this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Arctic Rising’, which is both a good, fast-paced thriller with a near-future SF background and a parable with a strong and very plausible message about the dangers of global warming and its effect upon our polar regions and thus the rest of the planet.


The chief character is Anika Duncan, a former child soldier and mercenary, who is Nigerian and, incidentally, a lesbian, although this aspect does not feature strongly, apart from her slightly ambiguous relationship with Violet (Vy), owner of the bar, Pussy Galore’s. This is, in effect, a high-class whorehouse on Pleasure Island, once an oil platform at the edge of the Northwest Passage, now open to shipping now that the ice has melted. But it becomes clear that Vy is involved in much more than this. At the start of the novel, Anika is a UN polar guard pilot, flying an airship over the ocean with her co-pilot, Tom Hutton. On her hunch, they drop down to investigate a Russian-owned ship and detect radiation suggesting some sort of nuclear cargo but, before they can take any action, the crew fires a surface-to-air missile at them, destroying the blimp and killing Tom. This leads her on a hunt, by air and water, for the people who tried to kill her and succeeded in murdering her friend and for the source of the radioactivity of which she has proof, for a while, on a memory stick.

As you would expect, with the Arctic Circle largely free of ice year-round, countries and corporations are creating a new gold rush, this time for oil, previously inaccessible under thick ice, as well as land. Even far to the south, the melting of ice has, of course, resulted in many low-lying countries and islands being swamped out of existence, but the author recognises that it will also have benefits, such as the opening up of arable land in the north, including Greenland and Iceland. Growing seasons in northern lands are now extended and many of the dispossessed from the south are now moving north to live or farm, along with all the peripherals needed to support and entertain them. As to the Arctic itself, a whole new independent nation called Thule has grown, a sort of Hong Kong, a flotilla of floating barges and factories and even whole apartment blocks, grown around derricks.

A large cast of characters is encountered during Anika’s search for the evil-doers, including Prudence ‘Roo’ Jones, a former Caribbean MI6 male agent, now a freelance spy. Paige and Ivan Greer, who have formed an organisation called Gaia, dedicated to turning the world away from its dependency upon oil as fuel (it is still essential for the production of plastics etc) and instead to use our natural resources. Don’t worry, the author does not hammer home this environmental message, just using it as an essential part of his story. Gaia has developed a solar shield, the surprising nature of which I’ll leave you to discover. However, their invention proves to have horrific alternative uses and, once the nuclear missile that caused this whole furore has been uncovered, events move into a much higher gear.

Buckell succeeds in being pretty impartial in his handling of both environmentalists and state agents, seeing both as believing they have the only correct answers to the world’s problems, which they can impose upon the rest of the world by the use of threats or force if necessary. Recommended.

David A. Hardy

May 2015

(pub: Del Rey/Ebury Publishing/Random House, 2013. 335 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-091953-52-2)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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About DaveHardy

David A. Hardy, FBIS, FIAAA is the longest-established living space artist in the West, being first published in 1952. From working almost exclusively in water colours and gouache he has gone on to embrace acrylics, oils, pastels and, since 1991, digital art on a Mac. For more art, including prints of this and other works, visit, where you can find many links, tutorials, books and prints and originals for sale.
Dave is Vice President of the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA) and European VP of the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA), and has an asteroid named after him! His SF novel 'Aurora' is now available in a revised and updated edition on Amazon etc. See a review of this and an interview with Pauline Morgan (November 2012) here:

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