Introduction Roger Levy
PS Publishing Novella
UK Hardcover/Trade Paperback First
ISBN 1-902880-29-3 (Hardcover)
ISBN 1-902880-28-5 (Softcover)
Price £25/$40 (Hardcover)
Price £8/$14 (Softcover)
Date Reviewed: 03-12-02
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel
Adam Roberts teaches English at the University of London and has published 'A Critical Study of Science Fiction'. In 'Salt' and 'On' he's taken an unusually analytical approach to science fiction, managing to write works that are simultaneously filled with compelling characters and well choreographed action, but putting the reader at enough of a distance so that the "special effects", so to speak, are "viewable" as parts of a story. He lets the machinery of science fiction writing show, and engages the reader in thinking not just about the plot, the predictions and the characters, but the artifice that goes into building the science fiction novel. In 'Park Polar' Roberts aims his unforgiving light at the science fiction mystery. In some senses, 'Park Polar' might be seen as a bit of well-written, action-oriented fluff, but Adams' harsh glare exposes his cerebral references as well as his characters' motivations.
'Park Polar' doesn't even get out of the gate before the references begin. According to Roberts in an Amazon.co.uk interview last year, his titles are always the first word or words of his books. And Park Polar of course points to that towering mass of American Cheese, 'Jurassic Park', with its gene-spliced action monsters. But Roberts' gene-splicing playground is considerably more sinister than Crichton's creation. With the rest of the world blocked off for cities and crops, the only refuges for wildlife are the North Pole and Antarctica. The wildlife in Park Polar is a Frankenstein creation, genengineered to survive in the hard white wasteland. Huge white wildebeest are hunted by enormous snow lions and human-sized snow hyenas. It's the perfect place for corporate sabotage.
McCullough is a woman who is sent to loose her dung-eating roos, designed to consume the wildebeest waste. She arrives to find carping scientists, soldiers sent to protect the park from eco-terrorists and a bearded woman as the park keeper. Murder happens, then the chase is on.
Adams descriptions of pursuit across the ice are fantastic. He displays the same aplomb that one finds in the best Dean Koontz novels, an ability to clearly describe a scene of action so that it leaps off the page and onto the screen in the reader's brain. He has a deft hand in his characterizations as well. This is only a hundred pages plus novella, but he delineates the members of his rather large cast well, and deploys them appropriately. While the conclusion seems a bit on the hurried side, on the surface, at least, this little rocket of a novella sails right on target.
But Adams wants to do more than provide a bang-up adventure. His stark language and straight-ahead plotting enable the reader to catch not only the action, but the thousand points of light behind the screen, from John Campbell's 'Who Goes There?' to the whinging scientists of Stanislaw Lem's 'His Master's Voice'. This is a novella enjoyable on at least two or more levels, one that is not so dense as to leave the reader scratching his head.
Kudos to go to Roger Levy's Introduction, and Peter Crowther's PS Publishing for the wonderful package. As a reviewer, one hesitates to review book so limited in production, but a glance at the back of the book shows that the titles are not yet all sold out. Given that each copy of every book is signed by both contributors, it's rather surprising. Reasonably priced, nicely produced, really limited -- PS Publishing's line is a prescription for an "auto-buy" book list addition.