Last week I read Stephen Baxter’s Anti-ice… and at times I felt like it was Professor Challenger redone (if you’ve read my previous posts on the subject of those books you are probably aware that, as far as I am concerned, that is most definitely not a good thing). Yes, the science was a little better, and –annoying as they were at times– the characters themselves were more or less consistent with what we find in the literature of the period. That was not the problem. That boiled down to the fact that there were a number of elements I just found to be unnecessary, grating and poorly handled, like the leading character’s infatuation with a mysterious woman. Over all the book felt like a concept in search of a plot. That is, at times it seemed to me like the author had had an interesting idea –what would have happened if, in the XIX century the British had come into possession of a powerful technology that would have enabled them to make a technological leap of close to a century?– but then he either didn’t know just what he was supposed to do with it, or he decided to try to force it into a pattern that didn’t quite fit.
I had been warned that this was one of Stephen Baxter’s weakest works (unfortunately I got that warning when I was reading the first chapter, and seeing how I don’t like to abandon a book once I’ve started it, I soldiered on), though in a way the fact that I wasn’t expecting much may have served to lessen the disappointment.
In short, if you are a die-hard Baxter fan, this one may be worth it (and chances are that you have already read it, so this post is likely to be redundant). If you are not, you may want to steer clear of it. No, it’s not dreadful, and it certainly doesn’t plummet to the level of The Land of Mist, but that is not much comfort.