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Review: Out Of The Ice by Ann Turner

on June 8, 2016

Out Of The IceOut Of The Ice
Ann Turner
Simon & Schuster AUS
2016, 368p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When environmental scientist Laura Alvarado is sent to a remote Antarctic island to report on an abandoned whaling station, she begins to uncover more than she could ever imagine.

Despite new life thriving in the icy wilderness, the whaling station is brimming with awful reminders of its bloody, violent past, and Laura is disturbed by evidence of recent human interference. Rules have been broken, and the protected wildlife is behaving strangely.

On a diving expedition, Laura is separated from her colleague. She emerges into an ice cave where, through the blue shadows, she is shocked to see an anguished figure, crying for help.

But in this freezing, lonely landscape there are ghosts everywhere, and Laura begins to sense that her own eyes cannot be trusted. Is her mind playing tricks? Has she been in the ice too long?

Back at base, Laura’s questions about the whaling station go unanswered, blocked by unhelpful scientists, unused to questions from an outsider. And Laura just can’t shake what happened in the ice cave.

Piecing together a past and present of cruelty and vulnerability that can be traced all around the globe, from Norway, to Nantucket, Europe and Antarctica, Laura will stop at nothing to unearth the truth. As she sees the dark side of endeavour and human nature, she also discovers a legacy of love, hope and the meaning of family. If only Laura can find her way…

Out of the ice.

When I first heard about this book a few months ago, I absolutely knew I had to read it. I love books set in Antarctica. Doesn’t really matter what they’re about, anything set there immediately goes straight on my wishlist. There’s something so fascinating about it – the isolation, the harsh landscape, the protected wildlife. The fact that really, it’s close to us but utterly foreign. The people that have died, trying to conquer it. It makes for one of the best settings, in my opinion.

Laura is an environmental scientist assigned to a station in Antarctica when she is unexpectedly sent to an abandoned whaling station, a forbidden area. Charged with an impact study to see if it could be opened up as a tourist prospect, Laura is alarmed by the strange happenings on the base nearby as well as some signs of life in a place that supposedly hasn’t been touched in fifty years. She’s even more disturbed by the fact that the local protected wildlife, which should be curious about her but not alarmed, are terrified and overprotective, going so far as to attack her. That suggest to Laura that they’ve been given reason to be afraid of humans…..something very strange is going on, Laura is sure of it. However Antarctica has a way of getting to you, of making your mind play tricks so Laura needs someone she can trust. Her colleague Kate and her boss Georgia are two likely candidates. If there’s something sinister going on, they will find out.

This book had me hooked from the very beginning, when Kate and Laura are observing a penguin colony. Penguins are my absolute favourite animals and the idea of doing what Kate and Laura were doing, observing them in their habitat, following them through their mating and breeding cycles sounds so amazing. Especially as the penguins are not particularly frightened of humans – they have no reason to be. Their predators are in the ocean and the scientists have never given them cause for fear. From there the book just escalates as Laura is sent to do the study on the abandoned whaling station, something that weighs heavily on her. Antarctica has a bloody history, slaughtering many species almost to extinction – in some years, the numbers of a particular species killed could be as many as 25,000. Even today the Japanese for example, still attempt whaling in Antarctic waters, ostensibly for “research”, despite numerous actions by other countries such as Australia, and organisations that seek to protect them. In fact according to this article, Japanese whalers killed over 300 minke whales in the 2015-16 season, including 200 pregnant females.

When Laura spots some signs of life at the abandoned whaling community, I was really intrigued – especially after what she thinks she sees behind a wall of ice: a face, begging her for help. I have to admit that I really did not pick the direction in which the book was heading and the more that Laura managed to uncover, the more horrifying the situation became. In order to get the answers she needs, Laura does have to leave Antarctica and for me, I did feel that once the action relocated, I really was just hanging out for the time that it returned down south. I know that she needed to find the answers elsewhere and that included travelling to Nantucket and then Venice before she could return to Antarctica with the knowledge she needed to create the full picture as well as how to go about exposing it.

Out Of The Ice was an unputdownable thriller that took me in unexpected directions with some truly expert twists. The beauty of Antarctica was showcased wonderfully, with a bit of a glimpse into a bloodied past. I wasn’t 100% sure on the ending…for me it did feel really neat and perhaps a little unlikely but I think it attempted to give the reader a sense of satisfaction and closure. All in all, a very good read and one I enjoyed a lot.

8/10

Book #128 of 2016

AWWC2016

Out Of The Ice is book #28 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

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One response to “Review: Out Of The Ice by Ann Turner

  1. Deborah says:

    I’ve been worried this might be a bit technical or something for me…. I’m not great with detail and tend to skim so worry a bit about what I miss if I do so!

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