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The Ice by Laline Paull

The Publisher said:    

THE ICE is an electrifying story of friendship, power and betrayal by the bestselling, Baileys-prize shortlisted author of The Bees.

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 had 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?

My friend Emily said:

The Eco message is delivered loud and clear in The Ice. This is how the future might possibly look if we ignore the signs of global warming. The author doesn’t try to force the message down our throats, but it takes centre stage in allegorical form.

The Arctic sea ice has melted, and business man Sean Cawson and his long term friend and environmentalist Tom Harding, purchase Midgard Lodge on the Midgard Glacier near Svalbard. Their intention is to provide an exclusive retreat for those able to afford it, while at the same time encourage these clients to look at the environment in a more sympathetic way.

The story takes a different approach to structure and storytelling. Most of the plot follows the aftermath of the tragic death of a young environmentalist, and the ensuing enquiry in which they try to establish the truth. That means that the critical incident happened before the story even starts, which means that all of the action is effectively set in the past.

To counter this, the author uses flashbacks and jumps backwards and forwards in time, which can be disconcerting from time to time but which works quite well. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s going on, but encourages your mind to put the pieces together and to slowly discover the truth for yourself.

What happened between the two Oxford graduate friends? How could a business venture go horribly wrong? A large part to The Ice is given over to an inquest by the Coroner into the manner and cause of Paul’s death. To establish the facts, and ensure that the death was an accident and not in any way contributed to by other members of the Midgard consortium. The outcome will have lasting repercussions and lead Sean to question the ethics of his venture and to finally realise the hidden agenda of those who supported him both financially and emotionally.

You can feel the majesty and power of the landscape. It has a raw, savage, feel where nature dictates the terms not man. It’s also a story about greed, power, and politics, and forces you to think about the environment, and the exploitation of natural resources. The characters were well thought out, though most of them were not particularly likeable – one who wants to save the world and one who really wanted his name in lights and the benefits and comfort of untold wealth –

but of course that gives them a somewhat compelling appeal. A very different but enjoyable read.

The Ice

by Laline Paull

Publisher: Fourth Estate