Thursday, 4 November 2010

Cold Earth - Book Review

By Sarah Moss

Pros: well realized characters with unique voices

Cons: plot elements under-utilized, lack of tension, unnecessary drama

Six graduate students converge in rural Greenland to participate in an archaeological dig. Internal and external forces threaten them and the job they've come to do.

The novel is narrated by the characters, one at a time. This style of writing allows the personalities of the characters to show, from Nina's prejudice against Americans to Ruth's preoccupation with a past trauma.

The narration starts with Nina. Dreams of the people who once lived in the settlement they're excavating plague her from the first night. She starts believing the ghosts don't want their remains moved. Her convictions start to disturb the other members of the team.

Meanwhile, there's news of spreading illness in the world, possibly an epidemic. And the team's contact with the outside world is severely limited.

While I found it an interesting, quick read, I feel the book didn't realize it's potential.


The story doesn't really succeed because the author tried to do too much without knowing how to tie it all together. The ghost thread could have made a good horror novel, but half way through the book it changes POV and that thread isn't as important afterwards.

Similarly, I got the feeling the author threw in the pandemic scare simply because apocalyptic ideas are popular right now. The isolationist fear could have been compounded in other ways (the internet crashes on me a lot without pandemics). Similarly, the tension about whether or not the plane would pick them up didn't require their belief that they were the last people alive on earth in order to succeed. There could be many reasons a plane might be late or not arrive - pandemic not being the first that comes to my mind.

The ending didn't use the plot threads, nor were important issues clarified (like the plane).

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