Monday, April 22, 2013

Ice Diaries: A Review

Lexi Revellian's  Ice Diaries (U.S. Amazon, and  U.K. Amazon) is post apocalyptic novel set in a London that first depopulated by a pandemic, and then frozen under 20 meters of snow.  It starts with a small huddling of middle class, over-educated survivors living in the upper floors (those still above the ice) muddling their way through.  Then an injured stranger shows up. An excerpt may be found here and reference web page here. 

Lexi Revellian (a pseudonym for Lexi Dick) is jeweler and silversmith who lives in London (behind a giant Ipad sign next to an abandoned courthouse) making pieces for people such as Margaret Thatcher, 10 Downing Street (residence and HQ of the  Prime Minister)  and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.  Her hobbies include rocking horses.  In an interview, she notes that she has a daughter who is old enough to attend a University, and that self publishing was natural for her because she was used to being in business for herself. She has sold an impressive 60,000 copies to date, this being her first apocalyptic novel.

On the genesis of this novel, she noted:
Long ago in 1981, Fred Hoyle wrote a book called Ice - How the next ice age will come - and how we can prevent it. I remember the cover of a colour supplement featuring the book; the Houses of Parliament emerging from a snowy wasteland, with a solitary figure skiing. This image stayed with me until I wrote Ice Diaries about a London in the near future buried beneath twenty metres of snow. Back in 1981, few buildings would have been tall enough to emerge from snow that deep. How London has changed.

Note that Hoyle will eventually be correct. No matter if we manage to melt all the ice caps first, cyclical variations in earth's orbit will eventually get us back to the frosty tundra.  In the case of this particular story, the author uses the much discussed shortcut of the Gulf Stream shutdown (caused by ocean desalination due to glacial melt) as a cheat to get us there quicker.
The novel's general premise is rather similar to Earth Abides.  In the year prior to the novel's start,  a really big plague wipes almost everyone out. The difference is that after that, they all get buried under 20 meters (66 feet) of snow.  The little bit of government that is left, grabs up as many people as it can, and heads south, hoping that the (also) depopulated Southerners won't mind the company.  Some people are left behind by accident, others by choice. 

The depopulation allows for less chaos and mayhem, but the ice age keeps it from being completely easy pickings.  There is a lot of loot to be had, but much of it is buried under a lot of snow, and the logistical problems with all that digging are discussed.

The otherwise non-apocalyptic author does a fairly good idea of thinking through the survival issues of her small group.  They are not particularly well trained for the task, but they are cooperative, and by putting their heads together, figure out many of the basics.   They can see the smoke from a handful of other fires in the distance, but it is not easy to get around on foot, and a mile is a long way without skis: apparently Londoners aren't familiar with the concept of snowshoes.  Since it is London, what they can do is find a tall building and take the steps down to the lobby level, and then burrow horizontally to nearby shops.  As the snow keeps accumulating, they keep moving their living quarters up.

The stranger who shows up is very different.  He is on the run from a group of thuggish types.  Granted I have worked for people meaner, and crazier, than the "psychotic" leader of this small pack, but they are still meaner than our little group of middle class folk with their once a month Scottish dance parties, and book club.  Let's say they are mean, but not cannibal mean.  Because this is England, there aren't any firearms.  When one semi-automatic pistol shows up, they act as if it is some sort of hand cannon.  There are a variety of "showdowns" and  in one of them, out on the snowy ice scape, (I swear I am not lying) the bad guy is convinced not to shoot his weapon, because it will hurt his ears and give him tinnitus.  As I said, the bad guys are mean, but not cannibal mean.

Well eventually the some ear protection is found, and some of the action occurs in enclosed space where arguably the earplugs have some usefulness.  We get our proper fight scene-climax.

I did enjoy the book.  It started off particularly well with the various survival accommodations made by the relatively well off group.  It started getting a little surreal and spun a little out of control as another neighboring group came into play, but ended on a reasonable, if not a little uncertain note.  It is not of  a must have, don't die before you read this book caliber, but it is fun.

We have our two descriptive categories: Realism and Readability: rated 1 to 7: 4 is the mid-point; 7 is high.

Realism:  The author specifically noted in an interview, that she set a near future date for her apocalypse so that the reader could place themselves within the situation.  While the apocalypse itself is a little convenient for getting rid of so many people with so little bloodshed, it does address issues of supply and survival.  The gasoline retains its functionality a bit too long, but that is such a common mistake as to almost not be worth mentioning.  It is not clear one-year in to our crises, as the snow has finally stopped, that the long term survival prospects are very good.  If it doesn't exactly have the gritty cutting edge that is typical in post-collapse fiction, it doesn't ignore the basic issues.  It a five.

Readability:  I wouldn't exactly call it a page turner.  There is a fare amount of time spent in scene setting, and also somewhat off point chatter.  It is not unpleasant reading, it's just not comic book easy.  And remember our readability description here is all about how easy of a read is it.  It is pretty easy:  a six.
The authoress in her non-snowbound jewelry/silversmithing studio.


The Angry Lurker said...

I do like these stories to have some basis in realism and not like a bad movie from Syfy!

russell1200 said...

Francis, I don't count the scenario within the realism rating because the causal-agent often has surprisingly little impact beyond the initial setup. The Death of Grass isn't that much different then a mid-level, nuclear war scenario.