Blurb Book Review: Cold People by Tom Rob Smith (spoilers ahead)

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This book gripped me and didn’t let go until the end.

Aliens arrive and send a single message: humanity has thirty days to reach Antarctica. Millions of humans make the trip and reach the shores of the inhospitable continent. Those left behind turn to embers.

Now stranded on a sheet of ice, the millions of humans eke out an existence. They form three small towns on a peninsula and the greatest scientific minds go live at McMurdo Station – a place set up in the 1940s.

One of the scientific pursuits is the creation of Cold People, or people who can withstand the tremendous cold. The intention is that these Cold People will help the ordinary-born to live. While Cold People’s existence is presented as helpers or a workforce that can adapt to cold conditions easily, they are, in fact, locked up until humans deem them worthy of integration.

That integration doesn’t go as planned. Cold People aren’t entirely human, their genes are edited to help them with the cold, and their attitude to their captors is rather chilly. They want a life without fragile humans to care for or consider. They want to live fully as themselves: creatures born to exist in the harsh conditions.

The novel speaks of love, mostly one-sided love. A gay man who falls in love with someone but chooses not to act on it, and a mother who loves her ice-adapted child but that love isn’t returned.

The aliens are barely mentioned, except that they herd humans to Antarctica, move some of humanity’s shrines to the icy continent, and don’t allow bombs to detonate during the exodus. Did these aliens love humans as well? Not likely, as they were shunted to Antarctica without explanation or a timeline of when they could return to warmer climates. But some affection for them is evident or they wouldn’t have bothered to herd them or bring them their most prized structures and set them on the ice.

Overall, this was a good read. I was left with a huge question: why did the aliens come and move humans to the most inhospitable place on Earth? What was the purpose of this and is there a timeline? But I see that the novel isn’t about the aliens, it’s about humanity’s love for each other and our incredible ability to persevere.

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