(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In ANTARCTICA Kim Stanley Robinson continues themes he pursued in his highly praised Mars trilogy. How far should humanity impinge on nature? How much should the natural environment be changed to allow for human habitation? Should the planet merely serve human desires or should humanity adapt itself to accommodate the planet? The same philosophical issues are at stake in ANTARCTICA.

There are parallels between Mars and Antarctica, and Robinson refers to Antarctica as the Ice Planet: its frozen temperature, high winds, and apparent unsuitability for human habitation are more like Mars than many places on Earth. In spite of the difficulties, however, Robinson’s Antarctica, like his Mars, is a magnet for humanity. Many are lured for the adventure. Some are scientists, pursuing science for its own sake and for academic advancement, and others are drawn to Antarctica because of the possibilities of resource development. Some are there for political or military reasons. For others, Antarctica is a job and a paycheck, but there are also the so-called “ferals” who have abandoned civilization, wishing merely to live in the Ice Planet.

The major crisis concerns an attempt by radical environmentalists, or ecoterrorists, to sabotage all development in Antarctica. Outposts are destroyed, their inhabitants captured, the satellite communications system is put out of action, and the characters respond to the adversity the best they can.

It is an exciting story but it also raises serious issues regarding the future of Antarctica. Robinson writes hard science fiction rather than fantasy, and his Antarctica is well within the realm of possibilities. His human characters are sufficiently well developed, but the true hero of ANTARCTICA is the continent itself, and Robinson’s depiction of Antarctica’s magnificent and challenging landscapes will long remain with the reader.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XCIV, April 15, 1998, p. 1357.

Library Journal. CXXIII, July, 1998, p. 141.

New Scientist. November 14, 1998, p. 52.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, July 12, 1998, p. 26.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, June 22, 1998, p. 72.

Starlog. October, 1998, p. 10.

The Village Voice. July 14, 1998, p. 124.

The Washington Post. August 20, 1998, p. B8.