(BeWrite, $15.33, 339 pages, paperback; September 2003.)
With a few short applications of the English language, Karl Kofoed
to the desolate whiteness of Antarctica. The action begins in one of
the remotest places yet left in the world and, while we are introduced
to this environment, we are also presented with the austere mind of
this novel's protagonist, Henry Gibbs. It is a troubled mind, yet not
one that is easily distracted from survival in a harsh world.
At one level, Deep Ice is a technothriller based upon our vulnerability
to nuclear terrorism on a global scale. Kofoed just barely stretches
the realm of possibility with a villain who, while he feels plausible,
possesses some maniacal traits that are tantalizingly just out of reach.
I would have liked a little more playing with the Inca references --
perhaps there is a link between South American legends and the catastrophic
flooding of continental coastlines. That is the threat that faces the
world as Gibbs's nemesis proposes to detonate strategically placed nuclear
devices on the Ross Ice Shelf.
At another level, this isn't a story that dwells on technology but
on the human dimension in a world overtaken by human technological developments.
Can a man left for dead in the Antarctic ice stand a ghostly chance
of finding and thwarting a powerful figure who vanishes from the frosty
stage and who seems capable of holding the world's intelligence community
at bay? Kofoed takes us on this journey, all the while developing his
hero's personality and filling his life with novel encounters. While
the characters fulfil their roles in a straightforward manner, and we
don't really get to know their motivations very well, they move the
narrative forward briskly.
At one point I found myself wishing for some maps of the Antarctic
showing Gibbs's odyssey on the ice between the site where he was shot
and McMurdo Station. My curiosity was piqued by a desire to understand
where one would place nuclear devices to promote the separation of the
Ross Ice Shelf from the continent. Then I thought: In these troubled
times, do I want someone to publish such an educated guess? It
would seem that Deep Ice, while still fantastical, may hit a
little close to home as we wage a "war on terrorism" against enemies
who truly defy rationality. This is all the more troublesome as I realize
that Deep Ice was conceived and first drafted well before September
In today's chaotic world scene, reading Deep Ice provides a
kind of thoughtful escapism. It takes you away from the headlines. It
flows nicely and carries you with it. It is filled with humanity in
a range of characters that all seem to reinforce the viewpoint that
it takes just one right-minded person in the right place at the right
time to stave off disaster. Which makes me feel like I've just left
out those with a left-brained emphasis? Perhaps, as the Navajo imply,
it is all a matter of balance.
Kofoed doesn't seem to have any problem with his balance as a writer.
I envy his facility in harvesting carefully plotted fruit from the seed
of a wild idea. With Kofoed, it isn't so much about being on the edge
of your seat but more about savouring the lingering moments of realism
between coincidental plot developments. Take a few hours to meet Henry
Scott Gibbs of the Antarctic and you'll find yourself thinking about
what might happen in this world if we didn't have people who manage
to maintain their balance in the face of overwhelming irrationality.
Review by Greg Barr.
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