|Arctic Rising, by Tobias S. Buckell
||[Mar. 18th, 2012|11:33 am]
Review copy provided by Tor.
Tor Books publicity department was excited about this book--so excited that they contacted me back in December to see if I would be part of a blog tour/launch campaign. Within my usual parameters (I don't say things I don't mean, I don't review books I don't finish, and Tor understands and respects that), I was more than happy to schedule a particular day for a review with advance notice. That day was March 8, and December was plenty of time for me to put that on my schedule. Toby Buckell is not a personal friend of mine, but he's friends with several of my friends, and everything I know about him is that he's a stand-up kind of guy; as long as I didn't hate the book once it arrived, I felt perfectly happy about making sure I had the review written and ready to post on March 8. So the Tor people were excited. I was excited. (Arctic in title = sold to Mris. Seriously, it's good to know your price, and that's one of mine.)
There was one entity in this chain not excited, and it wasn't even the strep virus. No. It was the US Postal Service.
After several iterations of, "Haven't got it yet"/"How 'bout now?"/"No"/"Eek! I'll send another, how 'bout now?", I begin to suspect that there is a postal employee with a large family who got all of their grandchildren Arctic Rising for their birthdays for this year.
But anyway! One copy finally arrived, and I have read it, and I can say that I see why the Tor publicity department is excited. Every few years, you see a science fiction writer thinking, "Why shouldn't I reach thriller readers with real, thoughtful near-future SF? Thrillers are mostly near-future SF with fast-paced plots and accessible characters! I can do that!" And in fact they can do that, and then they write one, and it...somehow isn't the same, and you mostly watch it fail to reach thriller audiences, and you watch the SF writer get frustrated as they wonder why not.
I really think that in Arctic Rising, Buckell has the missing piece here. He has figured out not just the near-future SF with fast-paced plot and accessible characters, but also the shift in prose that makes thrillers move for thriller readers on the sentence, paragraph, and chapter levels. I think he's given us a book that, yes, thinks about a world with significantly melted polar ice and what that means for the far north as well as for the rest of the world. But he also realized that with the thriller audience you cannot expect to fold your arms and say, "That ought to be interesting enough by itself; you need to come the rest of the way." You have to reach out with your prose to get a thriller audience--you have to go to them--and he's done that here. If you've been frustrated, trying to get some family member or friend to read something that's thinking about implications, and all they seem to want is a book that goes from point A to point B with maximum of plane crashes, this is the thing you put in their hands, because this is the thing that bridges the gap between you. This is the book that gets you talking. I really hope that he finds the wider audience here, because he's done the work, and he deserves it. It's not a thing I think I'll ever be able to do, and I respect it when I see it accomplished.