The only fantasy among British author Anna Kavans twelve novels, Ice was the last work published before her death from a heroin overdose. Ice reflects a fragmented personality, hallucinating under the drugs thrall, yet the writing is fully in control, marked by pictorial vividness and lyrical beauty, as scenes dissolve between realism and trance.
The story opens with the nameless narrator driving, lost, along a dark road in his own country. A garage attendant warns of treacherous icing. The narrator, a writer interested in geographical locales, has returned recently from the tropics. He now seeks out a married woman he once loved. Obsessed by his memory of her—wraithlike, fragile and pale, with shimmering silver hair—he sees her lying naked and dead in the snow, as towering icy walls close in to trap her. This is the first of many visions of the woman, lifeless, bleeding, broken-necked, or tossed in a maelstrom to be eaten by a dragon. She never dies in these visions. A meeting with the terrified woman and her abusive husband in their cottage gives way to dreamlike scenes with the woman in a world panicked by impending disaster.
Nuclear devices have caused pollution, triggering another ice age. Food supplies run out, and refugees crowd ships. The rhythm of violence escalates until battles rage with bludgeons, medieval weaponry, and modern technology. Barracks and camps spring up, and trucks transport soldiers. The narrator takes on the roles of suspected spy, military commander, and war-weary soldier.
Having eluded her husband, the woman languishes in custody of the narrators new rival, the warden. He caresses and rapes her in a sadomasochistic sequence as the narrator lurks, a voyeur in the shadows. The warden is...
(The entire section is 724 words.)