The Ice by Laline Paull

The Blurb On The Back:

How deep do the lies go?

It’s the day after tomorrow and the Arctic sea ice has melted.  While global business carves up the new frontier, cruise ships race each other to ever-rarer wildlife sightings.  The passengers of the Vanir have come seeking a polar bear.  What they find is even more astonishing: a dead body.

It is Tom Harding, lost in an accident three years ago and now revealed by the melting ice of Midgard glacier.  Tom has come to Midgard to help launch the new venture of his best friend of thirty years, Sean Cawson – a man whose business relies on discretion and powerful connections – and who was the last person to see him alive.

Their friendship had been forged by a shared obsession with Arctic exploration.  And although Tom’s need to save the world often clashed with Sean’s desire to conquer it, Sean has always believed that underneath it all, they shared the same goals.

But as the inquest into Tom’s death begins, the choices made by both men – in love and in life – are put on the stand.  And when cracks appear in the foundations of Sean’s glamorous world, he is forced to question what price he has really paid for a seat at the establishment’s table.

Just how deep do the lies go?

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s the early 2020s.  The Arctic ice caps have melted, opening new trade routes between the West and the Far East.  Rich tourists pay for luxury cruises to see the last polar bears while the seasons are getting hotter.

Sean Cawson is a successful international property developer, best known for Midgard Lodge – a state of the art retreat in the Arctic Circle where the world’s great and good get together to discuss matters away from the public eye.  He built the Lodge with the help of Martine Delaroche (a publicist and his lover), his mentor Joe Kingsmith and Radiance Young (a Chinese investor) and although he’s estranged from his ex-wife, Gail and his daughter, Rosie, the money, power and success make up for it.

Then a melting ice cap reveals the body of Sean’s best friend, Tom Crawford – a famous environmentalist who supported the Midgard Lodge venture – and disappeared while exploring a glacial cave with Sean 3 years earlier.  The revelation of his body necessitates a coroner’s inquest and for the first time Sean has to re-examine the events of 3 years ago and everything he’s done to get his success …

Laline Paull’s near-future climate change thriller is an unsatisfying polemic that revolves around the deeply unconvincing Sean (a poor boy made good who’s constantly surprised by the double dealing and selfishness of others) in a world where all the capitalists are venal and evil and all the environmentalists are over-emotional hysterics and where the conspiracies are so laughably obvious that I was glad to reach the end.

The big problem for me was that Sean is poorly drawn.  He’s astonishingly gullible and his desire for a knighthood (which drives one of the plot elements) never rung true, nor did his obliviousness to the machinations of those closest to him.  His friendship with the saintly Tom likewise didn’t convince (in part because Tom is so two-dimensional) and I didn’t believe that Tom was so well known as an environmentalist as to justify the media scrum at the inquest.  The female characters are particularly disappointing – all are shallow and defined by their relationship to Sean with the possible exception of Radiance (who plays up to stereotypes in a way that made me uncomfortable).  The depictions of the damaged Arctic are well done but that simply wasn’t enough for me, although I would check out Paull’s critically acclaimed THE BEES.

THE ICE was released in the United Kingdom on 4th May 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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