Book Review: 'Arctic Rising'

Tobias Buckell has written a thriller called Arctic Rising. Set in a period after global warming has opened the polar region to smugglers, drug traffickers and other illegal pursuits, the book is a fast paced thriller. Alan Cheuse, who teaches writing at George Mason University, thinks readers should receive it warmly.

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Writer Tobias Buckell was born in the Caribbean and grew up in Grenada and the Virgin Islands, so it might seem odd that he set his latest novel north of the Arctic Circle.

"Arctic Rising" transports readers to a not-too-distant future, in which the polar ice is steadily melting. Alan Cheuse has our review.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Imagine an ice-free Northwest Passage. This means, as one Canadian military man puts it in this novel, an Arctic that's a real wild west sort of area, new drug trade routes, Northern Europe and Russia to Canada and Alaska smuggling, loosely monitored offshore drilling operations, eco-terrorists.

Doing her part to patrol this newly active shipping lane is UN polar guard pilot Anika Duncan, Nigerian born and, as it happens, a lesbian. Early in chapter one, she and her copilot, Tom Hutton, while flying a blimp above the ocean, detect some radioactive cargo, and before the end of the chapter, they're shot down by surface-to-air missiles, Hutton is dead and Anika is off and running - and sometimes flying again - on her own mission.

As we might expect in a good thriller, it's only the fate of the world that turns out to be hanging in the balance. Arrested, shot at, bruised, near broken, Anika frees herself to follow among the icebergs and formerly frozen islands and rough seas, a trail of military overreaching, environmental intrigue and corporate megalomania.

If you count on good thrillers to be told in clear, engaging prose and made up of interesting psychology, state-of-the-art research and swiftly moving plots, you couldn't be in a better place. This one will give you the shivers, even as it makes you sweat.

CORNISH: The book is "Arctic Rising." Alan Cheuse teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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