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Ice Summary

(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 left her husband and fled by sea into the thickening ice. He follows her to another country, possibly Norway, where she is hidden from him by the “warden” of the harbor town. As he finds his way to her, she and the warden escape again, across another frontier, to be pursued once more. Half a dozen times he comes up with her in different locations. Each time they are separated, until the end, when he and she are for once together and alone, in a car, driving in temporary security to yet another frontier.

Even this chaotic account of pursuit and loss does not convey the full disorientation of Ice , for another very strongly marked feature is the narrator’s sudden plunges into accounts of events, usually involving the girl, which appear to be historical memory (such as the sack and pillage of the warden’s town), pure myth (such as the sacrifice of the girl to a fjord-dragon), or macabre dream (such as the narrator’s vision of an alien...

(The entire section is 678 words.)