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The Ice by Laline Paull
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The Ice

by Laline Paull

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Showing 5 of 5
Laline Paull is quite a writer. There are so many levels to The Ice and each works with pinpoint precision. As with her first (and Bailey's award nominated The Bees) there's an environmental theme at the heart of the story but this is no Day After Tomorrow overnight eco-catastrophe this is simply our current trend of climate change and (lack of action) transported a into the not-too-distant future. London is experiencing the effects of sandstorms in the Sahara, the UK is developing a monsoon season, it feels like summer in February. Elsewhere the consequences are more dramatic but still distant enough to sweep under the carpet, riding waters levels are devastating the Maldives and key to the story, the summer sea ice in the Arctic has vanished opening up new potential shipping routes and exploitation of natural resources.

At the opening of the book we meet Sean Cawson, he's a self-made man, rich, successful, on track for a knighthood and he has a passion for the Arctic but these three factors don't always compliment one another. Rather than the polar explorer of his boyhood dreams he has become the ambitious CEO of an exclusive Midgard retreat that caters to the wealthy and the influential and manages to maintain a privileged position in the thorny, acquisitive politics of the Arctic. But a more personal shadow has fallen over the Midgard Glacier. In a tragic accident several years before Sean's friend and colleague Tom Harding, a renowned environmental activist, was lost and presumed dead. His body has just been recovered. The threads of Paull's narrative are artfully woven as we follow the present events and the fraught inquest into Tom's death as well as several other points in the relationship of these two complex and intriguing characters, their meeting, their friendship, the germination of Sean's business interests in Svalbard and, of course, the circumstances of the accident that left one of them dead and the other increasingly prone to flashbacks and panic.

It's a fantastically gripping story, slow-burning and supported by complex characters, each a convincing puzzle with multiple, often conflicting, motivations. Sean is all to believable as a man whose genuine passion for the arctic has become tainted by his determination to shed his past and prove to the world that he is successful and important. Paull starkly beautiful descriptions of the arctic landscape contrast cleverly with the increasingly murky world of international politics and shady business interests. But the dark side of the far north's declining natural beauty is not new, or entirely man-made and the excerpts from the writing of polar adventurers adds fascinating depth to the history and culture of arctic exploration and exploitation.

While absolutely central to her story Paull's handling of climate change is also impressively subtle. The environmental changes, at least in richer nations, remain relatively minor, it's the same slow but inexorable development many can see now, which only makes it more frightening because it isn't really about change, it's about consistency, only the year has changed. A consistency of political and economic attitudes and a little time and Paull convincingly demonstrates how we will continue to sleepwalk into disaster. Her passion and knowledge are abundantly clear but The Ice never becomes a manifesto and her plot and characters have strength and depth that easily allows them to hold their own weight, ultimately it is a story and the unfurling of this central relationship becomes the crux of a riveting, character-driven story of ambition, idealism, compromise and friendship, but the fall-out is intense and the consequences potentially earth-shattering. Paull has achieved a rare feat in this story of a convincing, literary, character-driven thriller that cuts no corners and pulls no punches. ( )
  moray_reads | Mar 20, 2018 |
This is a novel that defies ready categorisation, containing elements of dystopian science fiction, thriller, courtroom drama and eco-political tract, with significant elements of the history of polar exploration thrown in. A heady mix, perhaps, but it all works, effectively woven together by Laline Paull.

It is set in an unspecified, but presumably not too distant future (there are a few subtle pointers, such as the description of a couple of barristers as KCs, rather than QCs) in which the Arctic icecap has largely melted. As the novel opens, a luxury liner is crawing slowly along the shores of Svalbard, searching for polar bears to sate the appetites of demanding wealthy tourists. A bear is finally found, and the passengers are all merrily taking photographs of it when, without any warning, there is a sudden tremor, and the glacier oin which the bear starts crumbling into the sea. As huge boulders of ice collapse away from the glacier, a human body is revealed. Once stability returns, the body is retrieved.

It turns out that the corpse is Tom Harding, a renowned eco-protester and former leader of Greenpeace and other campaigning bodies. He was also a university friend of Sean Cawson, Chief Executive and senior shareholder in Midgard Lodge, a luxury hotel site in Svalbard that caters to exceptionally wealthy guests who are eager to enjoy highly exclusive retreats. Harding and Cawson had been exploring a network of ice caves near Midgard Lodge when a sudden shift in the ice (possibly caused by the impact of warming compromising the integrity of the glacial structures) had left them stranded under the ice. Cawson had been rescued while Harding had never been seen again until his body emerged from the glacier, three years later.

Cawson is a self-made man, though despite his immense commercial success, he is riven with self-doubt, and has found himself alienated from his wife and daughter. His business empire had been formed through hard work, fortuitous investments and the support of a mentor, Joe Kingsmith. Under Kingsmith's mantle, he had first learned his business craft, and then gradually started to establish himself in his own right. Recognising his debt to the older man, he had invited Kingsmith to invest in Midgard Lodge.

The discovery of Tom's body leads unavoidably to a formal inquest, which forms the central core of the novel, and offers a stage for the compelling scrutiny of the nature and extent of the business and political contacts that both Harding and Cawson has followed during their respective careers. This allows Laline Paull to explore the conflicting arguments supporting and opposing mineral exploitation of the Arctic Circle. She manages this deftly, using separate characters to put forward their respective ideas, all handled objectively through the filter of the inquest.

Interspersed with the story, in between each chapter, Laline Paull interpolates extracts from various classic accounts of Polar explorations, which offer intriguing contextual insights into different aspects of the emerging story. She controls the plot very effectively, gradually letting more information and new avenues of thought emerge and continuing to throw up new twists. All in all, a very effective and gripping novel, and I look forward to reading more by her. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jan 29, 2018 |
This is a story of friendship and betrayal, business, politics, and climate change. It's set in contemporary times but climate change has progressed slightly further and is affecting the UK (hot in October), and protecting the arctic is a hot topic. Two university friends obsessed withe the arctic and exploration have taken different paths in life, one an environmental campaigner, one a businessman, both high-profile in middle-age. They go into business together in the arctic but one has a secret and the other ends up dead. The inquest brings out all their secrets....

I loved Laline Paull's The bees, and this is very different but ticks the polar exploration box for me (I enjoy fiction and non-fiction about polar travel and exploration both modern and historical). It was a page-turner and really made me think about the effects of climate change. Sean Cawson's middle-aged fragile masculinity and vanity was well-expressed.

As a side-note I will always be grateful to Laline Paull for introducing me to Peter Freuchen (early 20th century Danish explorer), extracts of whose works are reproduced in The ice, each one more grim than the last. Ghastly sounding food, frostbitten self-amputated toes and the final tale of his beard being frozen to his sled and having to chop it off with his own frozen faeces.... It's almost unbelievable, I had to check that he really existed! Surely no-one could have the luck he had. ( )
  cjeskriett | Jul 18, 2017 |
‘The Ice’ by Laline Paull is a climate change thriller which takes place partly in the Arctic and partly in a courtroom in Canterbury. Sean and Tom met as students when Tom attended a meeting of the exclusive Lost Explorers’ Society and Sean was a waiter. They became friends because of their shared fascination for the Arctic. Both go on to forge careers revolving around the Arctic; Tom becomes an environmental campaigner, Sean a businessman. Their friendship, agreements and arguments are key to this novel. When, in chapter one, Tom’s body is revealed by an iceberg calving from a glacier it is the catalyst for all that follows.
Tom was known to be dead, having died in an accident in an ice cave on Svalbard three years earlier, an accident which Sean survived. An inquest is called, Sean’s business partners fly in to give evidence and to support Sean who is seeing visions of Tom around every corner. It becomes clear that Sean, now divorced and living with one of his investors, Martine, is not hands-on with his business in Svalbard. Midgard Lodge is an exclusive retreat where businessmen and politicians can meet to do deals. Sean’s upfront motivation is to encourage the capitalists to see the Arctic surrounding them, the polar bears, whales and glaciers, and convert them to environmentalism. With this in mind, he recruited Tom to the business. His partners however - the odious Joe Kingsmith and irritating Radiance Young - set my alarm bells ringing very early on. What exactly goes on at Midgard Lodge and why doesn’t Sean, supposedly the CEO, find out? And how could Tom not ask more questions before signing his contract?
There are some big topics touched on here: the opening of shipping channels over the North Pole, the political and military ramifications, the melting of the ice, the wealthy tourists who demand to see the polar bear they were promised in the holiday brochure, business executives who take the money and avoid asking difficult questions because that’s the easiest and most convenient thing to do. To reduce it to essentials, this is a novel about greed and love. How greed can destroy everything: not just business, but friendships, families and ultimately the ice.
I enjoyed ‘The Ice’ but was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied. A day after I finished reading it, I realized why: it feels like it started out as a thoughtful novel about climate change, but at a later draft was turned into a thriller. The environmental message seemed preachy at times, the business sections were factual and dry, both of which took the edge off the suspense. Told from Sean’s viewpoint, the lack of Tom’s voice for me made the novel weaker. Perhaps it would have been more thrilling if various viewpoints had been juggled so the lies, risks, double-crossing and betrayals happen in real time, rather than the past.
Read more of my book reviews at http://www.sandradanby.com/book-reviews-a-z/ ( )
  Sandradan1 | Jul 14, 2017 |
An interesting story and possibly a warning to us all as to what could happen if we choose to ignore global warming and turn a blind eye to the continuous erosion of the polar ice caps. Two childhood friends Sean Cawson and Tom Harding have the opportunity and it would now seem the means to dictate future trends by the successful acquisition of a strategic land mass within the northern polar region: The Artic....."super-objective of Midgard: an inspiring venue in which to promote the reconciliation of business and environmental ethics." At the start of this story ( and 3 years since his disappearance), a body is discovered in the ice, soon identified as Tom Harding....What happened between the two Oxford graduate friends? How could a business venture so carefully construed turn into disaster under the auspices of two intelligent and far-sighted men; one who wanted to save the world and one who really wanted his name in lights and the benefits and comfort of untold wealth?

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 realize the hidden agenda of those who supported him both financially and emotionally. A big thanks to the good people at netgalley for supplying me with a gratis copy of this enjoyable read, in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written. ( )
  runner56 | Apr 10, 2017 |
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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.
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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?… (more)

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