True story: I paid the full $24.95 list price for this book in August
1998 while on vacation in Bar Harbor. Maine. How do I remember that? Ah,
because it's signed and dated by the author, Kim Stanley Robinson, his
own self. I had happened to notice that a local bookstore was on his book tour
stop, and popped in. (He's a pretty nice guy, at least I remember he
seemed to be in 1998.)
I had previously read his famous trilogy Red Mars, Green
Mars, and Blue Mars, which gathered a bunch of awards,
including two Hugos and one Nebula.
Unfortunately, Antarctica got zero awards. And (for no good
reason) it's been sitting on my bookshelf, unread for over 20 years.
That's why, readers, I implemented my
picking system, which at least gives such neglected tomes a chance
at being read, eventually.
So enough prelude: Antarctica is a big book, clocking in at over
500 pages. And, at least for me, it should have been at best a 200 page
book. Explanation One: I'm a Philistine, KSR is a professional writer,
he wrote exactly the book he wanted to, and if I wasn't
impressed, that's on me.
Explanation Two: he had a book contract that demanded 500 pages, and he
larded up a decent plot with endless digressions and irrelevancies.
I don't know which explanation is more on target.
Anyway, there are three main characters: "X", a "General Field
Assistant" working for the oppressive corporation that runs official Antarctic
operations; Val, an Amazonian guide, responsible for shepherding
adventure-seeking tourists on treks through the frigid landscape; and
Wade, a researcher for a US Senator, on a fact-finding mission.
Things kick off when X is the only human accompanying a robotic caravan
of tractors delivering supplies to the interior; he is surprised when
unseen pirates manage to grab one of the tractors.
A promising, intriguing beginning. But then… pretty much nothing
happens for the next 200+ pages. Then there's (spoiler) an exciting,
harrowing story of near-disaster triggered by a quirky avalanche and
some ecological saboteurs. And there's a cool climax which caused me to
think: "Ah. Blimpi ex machina!
And then nothing much interesting happens for the rest of the book. Eh.
The novel is set sometime in the future when the Ross Ice Shelf has
melted away, thanks to Global Warming. This doesn't
to be likely to happen anytime soon.
KSR is also
and that, I'm afraid, is part of the reason I found this book tedious in