(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The scenario for Ice is familiar from a dozen science-fiction novels. A new Ice Age is coming, created seemingly by radioactive fallout from a nuclear explosion of some unknown type. As the glaciers extend, more and more heat is reflected back from the Earth, dropping the temperature further and setting up a disastrous downward spiral. Some populations react to this by fleeing south, which creates immediate resistance and sets up the conditions for further war, civil disturbance, and military dictatorships. In the developing chaos, one man searches frantically for his lover, hoping to take her to safety. This cliched plot outline, however, does no justice to the individuality of Ice. As a science-fiction “disaster story,” Ice is in fact inadequate and uninteresting. The nature of the original disaster is never more than vaguely specified; there is no concern for realistic political reactions; the author spends no time at all in trying to persuade the reader that her plot is even plausible. The science-fiction scenario is never more than a background and at times appears to lose realism altogether, becoming instead a metaphor for an exploration of an obsessive inner state.

The mind explored is that of the narrator, whose history very soon takes on the quality of a dream or nightmare. The reader is never at all sure where he is. He begins on a lonely road, in bitter cold, trying to reach the house of his love and her husband before nightfall. His account of this search, however, immediately becomes interspersed with a memory of a former visit in summer heat, only to fade very soon into a later stage, when the wife has...

(The entire section is 678 words.)