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Antarctica
     

Antarctica

4.3 12
by Kim Stanley Robinson
 

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Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the most original and visionary voices in science fiction. In his highly successful Hugo and Nebula award-winning Mars trilogy, Robinson led us on an odyssey of transformation and discovery, as humans terraformed the Great Red Planet. Now, in his latest novel, he takes us to a harsh, alien landscape covered by a sheet of ice two

Overview

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the most original and visionary voices in science fiction. In his highly successful Hugo and Nebula award-winning Mars trilogy, Robinson led us on an odyssey of transformation and discovery, as humans terraformed the Great Red Planet. Now, in his latest novel, he takes us to a harsh, alien landscape covered by a sheet of ice two miles deep. This is no distant planet; it is the last pure wilderness on Earth.

It is a stark and inhospitable place, where the landscape itself poses a challenge to survival, yet its strange, silent beauty has long fascinated scientists and adventurers. Explorers have crossed this vast, frozen terrain for many reasons: to stand in awe before the volcanic Mount Erebus or Antarctica's other natural wonders, to fathom the mysteries of ages past, to exploit its great stores of untapped mineral wealth, or to pit themselves against this cold, unforgiving continent.

Now Antarctica faces an uncertain future. The international treaty which protects the continent is about to dissolve, clearing the way for Antarctica's resources to be plundered, its eerie beauty to be savaged. As politicians wrangle over its fate from half a world away, major corporations begin probing for its hidden riches. Adventurers come, as they have for more than a century,
seeking the wild, untamed land even as they endanger it with their ever-growing numbers. And radical environmentalists carry out a covert campaign of sabotage to reclaim the land from those who would destroy it for profit. All who come here have their own agenda, and all will fight to ensure their vision of the future for this last great wilderness.

Ascomplex and compelling as his Mars saga, as powerful and majestic as the continent itself, Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica takes us to the remote and awe-inspiring world at the South Pole.


Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of the Nebula and Hugo award-winning Mars trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, as well as The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast, Pacific Edge, A Short, Sharp Shock, and other novels. He lives in Davis, California.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
An absorbing novel. . .a scientfically informed imagination of rare ambition at work.
NY Times Book Review
There is no finer writer of science fiction today than Kim Stanely Robinson, and he is at the top of his form in Antarctica ... a body of work distinguished by two elements all too rare in modern science fiction: a sense of character and a sense of place. Robinson writes about geography and geology with the intensity and unhurried attention to detail of John McPhee. This is fiction so sturdily underpinned by facts that you might forget the story takes place sometime in the next century.
Washington Post Book World
Dense as a diamond and as sharp; it makes even most good novels seem pale and insignificant by comparison.
Daily News of L.A.
Has the breathtaking scope, plausible science and intellectual daring that made Red Mars a hit.
VOYA - Bill White
Robinson is one of the best hard science fiction writers working today; here he continues to play with some of the ideas that made his Mars trilogy so powerful and fascinating. The novel is set in the early twenty-first century at a time when Antarctica, whose human inhabitants had hitherto been only scientists in isolated research stations, is being targeted by corporations eager to gain access to its untapped mineral resources-and by rich tourists on "adventure vacations" that recreate the dangerous exploration journeys of a previous era. The international treaty regulating development is up for renegotiation, and the interests of powerful corporations and resource-poor Southern nations mean that the "hands off" policy that preserved Antarctica for scientific research may soon no longer be in force. Appalled by this, radical environmentalist "ecoteurs" plan a campaign to stop or at least delay Antarctic exploitation. Against this backdrop, Robinson follows a diverse group of characters, including an American Senator's aide sent to investigate the "Antarctic situation," an adventure tour guide who finds it increasingly difficult to deal with some of her more abrasive clients, a technician at the U.S. McMurdo Station who has been unlucky at love, and a Chinese video artist who beams a running commentary to an audience of millions. When the ecoteurs strike, these four and others must survive in an environment that once routinely killed the hardiest explorers of a more rugged period, and somehow contribute to a solution that will satisfy both an increasingly needy world and those who wish to prevent the rapacious destruction of the environment. Robinson tells his story with reporter-like authority, changing perspectives from character to character as he weaves together the events they are involved in to paint a detailed picture of Antarctica's past and its hoped-for future. VOYA Codes: 5Q 5P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being better written, Every YA (who reads) was dying to read it yesterday, Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12 and adults).
Library Journal
After winning Hugo and Nebula awards for his Mars Trilogy (e.g., Green Mars, LJ 3/15/94), Robinson comes down to Earth with this near-future story of the race to uncover Antarctica's mineral wealth.
Jean-Louis Trudel
...Antarctica is a memorable read, seasoned with Robinson's dry wit, and an invitation to think of our planet's most alien continent.
SF Site
Kirkus Reviews
What does the author of the best-ever Mars epic (Blue Mars, 1996, etc.) do for an encore? He shifts to Antarctica, an environment as near to Mars as you can get on Earth, in a novel set a few years into the 21st century.

Earth's population has risen above ten billion. Global warming is no longer just a theory: Summers in Washington, D.C., for instance, have gone from unbearable to life-threatening. The Sahara is rapidly taking over all of northern Africa. Hardly any forests remain. Oil resources are also waning, and thus there is a call, just as renewal of the international treaty banning mineral exploitation of Antarctica stalls in Congress, to tap into the oil reserves near Ross Island. Surreptitious drilling may already be going on there, in fact, and so an environmentalist senator named Phil Chase dispatches his chief aide, Wade Norton, to investigate. Norton falls in love with the inhospitable continent and, along with others, becomes an 'ecoteur,' someone so committed to saving the planet that he'll engage in sabotage on its behalf. A young laborer (dubbed 'X' by the author) joins the campaign, partly to improve his low self-esteem and partly to impress a young scientist and guide, Valerie Kenning.

Obviously, Robinson has no love for the 'globally downsized post-revolutionary massively fortified stage of very late capitalism' portrayed here. He lays in lore and history and atmosphere with great care: the amazing cold and the equally amazing capacity of humans to endure it; unlikely wildlife; volcanoes steaming amid mountains of ice. And Robinson brings to life the expeditions of Roald Amundsen and Edward Wilson, as well as the history of scientific inquiry intothe 'least significant' continent. Passionate, informed, mildly flawed, and vastly entertaining.

From the Publisher
"Forbidding yet fascinating, like the continent it describes...echoes Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air."
People

"[Antarctica] should be included in any short-list of books about the frozen continent....Compelling characters...a rich and dense story...Robinson has succeeded not only in drawing human characters but also in bringing Antarctica to life. Whatever happens in the outer world, Antarctica—both the book and the continent—will become part of the reader's interior landscape."
The Washington Post Book World

"The epic of Antarctica. This is the James A. Michener novel of the South Pole. If the meaty one-word title didn't give it away, the writing would. The whole human history of the continent is here."
Interzone

"Antarctica will take your breath away."
Associated Press

"A gripping tale of adventure on the ice."
Publishers Weekly

"Passionate, informed...vastly entertaining."
Kirkus Reviews

"Robinson writes about geography and geology with the intensity and unhurried attention to detail of a John McPhee."
The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553100631
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/01/1998
Pages:
511
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.54(h) x 1.33(d)

Read an Excerpt

Author's Note

Dear Reader:

When I was researching my Mars novels in the early 1990s, I kept running across references to Antarctica. It was the part of Earth most like Mars, and scientists studying Mars often went to Antarctica to do research. I had read about the classic Antarctic explorers when I was young, and now, reading about it again, my interest was rekindled. And in the acknowledgments of one book, the author said "Thanks to the National Science Foundation for sending me down to Antarctic as part of its Antarctic Artists and Writers' Program."

That caught my eye. I made inquiries, and the administrators at NSF told me that the artists and writers they sent south had to be doing art or literature that was specifically about Antarctica. They would not, for instance, send me down there to do research for a book about Mars (I asked). So, I thought, I'm going to have to write a book about Antarctica.

I made a proposal; the people at Bantam were agreeable, and NSF selected me for their program in 1994. In October of 1995 I finished Blue Mars, and within two weeks was flying to New Zealand, to wait for an LC-130 Hercules flight to Ross Island, Antarctica.

In the months preceding my trip I had contacted various Antarctic scientists who had helped me with my Mars books, and they had generously invited me to visit them at their research sites around the continent. But when I got down to McMurdo, I found that all my plans were in the air. Some of my scientists had not made it down themselves, and the Antarctic weather made all scheduling completely unreliable. Only at the moment of a flight could you be sure it was really goingto happen. At first this was disorienting, even maddening. But when I became used to, I realized what it was: it was Freedom. I had no idea what I was going to be doing even three or four days in advance. Depending on weather, and other people's plans, I might be at the South Pole, I might be on top of Mt. Erebus, I might be in the Dry Valleys. But no way to tell in advance. It was completely unlike ordinary life in that regard.

So I relaxed, and had six weeks of unscheduled Freedom. I spent ten days in the Dry Valleys, helping glaciologists set weather stations on glaciers; I went to the South Pole, and partied with the crew there over a wild Thanksgiving. I helicoptered to the top of Mt. Erebus, and crawled inside a glacier with a mountaineer friend. I spent a glorious week with a team of geologists on Roberts Massif, a part of the Transantarctic Mountains that is like a rock island sticking out of the ice sea of the polar cap. I sat in a helicopter fighting winds to get back to McMurdo, and then sat in a hut at Cape Crozier when the winds proved too strong, eating emergency rations with a group of nematode scientists (wormherders) and trying to make radio coms with McMurdo. I got outrageously cold, and ate huge meals, and laughed a lot, and listened to a million stories.

And of course all the time I was thinking, what about my story? What story will I tell? I wanted Antarctica to be more than just an exotic backdrop for a story that could have happened anywhere. I wanted to do more than just retell the classic stories in updated form. I wanted to tell Antarctica's true story.

In this desire I found that science fiction was the perfect form for the subject. For one thing, Antarctica is a science fiction place already; it takes high tech to live there at all, and it looks like another planet entirely. Then again, the next hundred years down there are clearly going to be more interesting even than the last hundred. You can see it coming, like a slow motion train wreck: there are people who want to make Antarctica a wilderness "World Park," left untouched by humanity; while at the same time there are poor southern countries, struggling with debt and over-population, looking at the estimated 50 billion barrels of oil that lie under the ice down there, and thinking there is no good reason not to extract it.

So the outlines of my story were clear. If some southern governments went to Antarctica in search of oil, and some radical environmentalists tried to stop them by means of non-lethal sabotage, and even the slightest thing went wrong with that sabotage, then people would be in deadly trouble immediately.

But I also wanted to retell the old stories of the classic era of exploration, because they were too good not to tell. How to do that in the context of my tale? Well, part of my story concerned a wilderness adventure expedition, caught in the crossfire between oil interests and environmentalists; and suddenly one member of that expedition was a Chinese feng shui guru, transmitting his adventures to a Chinese TV audience and therefore telling them all the old tales, in his own way. With this appearance of Ta Shu, all the pieces of my puzzle were in place. I could have him retell the old stories, and tell my new story of sabotage gone wrong, and within that framework I could also tell many of the stories of the people who work down there in Antarctica, keeping the whole show going. McMurdo is like a very small American town stripped to its essentials, with people from all walks of life doing their jobs down there to keep the town running; and the basic absurdity of running a town in such frigid hostile conditions was the source of daily hilarity for all. I did my best to weave all these people's stories into the novel as well, and just as the six weeks of travel down there was a joy, the year of work on the novel after I got back was a joy as well. The whole experience was tremendous fun, and I trust that that is a feeling that will touch the reader as well.

Sincerely,

Kim Stanley Robinson

Meet the Author

Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of the Nebula and Hugo award-winning Mars trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars, as well as The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast, Pacific Edge, A Short, Sharp Shock, and other novels. He lives in Davis, California.

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Antarctica 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
kamas716 More than 1 year ago
I love this book. The cold, desolate landscape got transferred inside my head while reading. It also presented a history lesson in antarctic exploration that drew me in and made me want to find out more about the original explorers of the continent. It was a wonder read. It was faster paced that some of his Mars series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a good mix of adventure and history. Parts of it were a bit slow and had too much detail (in my opinion) ... about 75 pages could have been eliminated and it would have kept my attention more. Glad I read it to the end...as I was tempted to bail out about 1/2 way through. Made me want to read more about the early explorers!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stark, white, cold. Hard to convince ANYONE why they should read this. Still... Mars series was good, THIS, a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is not only a gripping story, it is a tourist manual for the Ice Continent. 'Antarctica' makes me want to go there -- not just for the abundant beauty that Robinson describes, but also for the wonderful people who are crazy enough to live there.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book, grand style, powerful characters. This book reaches beyond science fiction, delving into history while exploring the grandeur of our own planet.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Following his Mars trilogy, it is little surprise that Kim Stanley Robinson chose Antartica as the subject and location of his next book. Readers would have been familiar with the fact the First 100 to Mars spent two years in preparation in Antartica (scoop: look for a short novel in the future about that period). Unfortunately, although Robinson tells a good story of man's quest to overcome the great physical distress of life on the Ice Planet, it lacks something. Perhaps it is the fact we've grown to know his previous characters so well over the three Mars books, that 500 pages just isn't enough for Robinson to pull us in to know his characters in Antartica. Perhaps it is the lack of futurism of being a fiction of our nearer future. Perhaps it is the re-occurring cooperative/social themes. Still, as other reviewers point out, Robinson's lesser works are still better than most best works. If just for a better understanding of this barren wasteland man has yet to lay to waste, Antartica is still a worthwhile read.