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.

Blurb Book Review: Mickey7 by Edward Ashton (spoilers ahead)

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Mikey Barnes is immortal. Well, sort of. He’s an Expendable, someone who is expected to perform the most dangerous jobs associated with colonizing a planet. When he dies, his body is put into the corpse hole where it’s broken down to its base components. Then another body is grown, complete with his consciousness.

This is Mickey’s seventh life.

During a mission he falls down a crevasse and into a possible lair of creepers – caterpillar-like entities that live underground – and is deemed unsalvageable. Except he’s rescued and when he gets back to his bunk he discovers Mickey8, the newest instantiation of himself.

The subject matter is what drove me to this novel. What an interesting idea, to have an Expendable on board to eat the local cuisine, breathe the air first, and even clean out radiation-thick areas of the ship. The author explained all of this well enough for me to simply handwave away a lot; like anti-matter engines and humans regularly going on one-way trips to colonize other planets.

I would consider this Sci-Fi Lite, if that’s a thing. There’s just enough science to explain things and the main focus is the lead character attempting to figure out how to live with a copy of himself, all while dealing with creepers, a hostile environment, and a ship crew that mostly see him as an abomination.

This is a fast read, with large font, easy sentences, and a tight plot. Some of the backstory dragged a bit, but was important enough to the overall plot line to keep it interesting. I found this novel to be a good example of how much science to include to keep the reader in the know, when and where to give backstory, and how to keep a lean plot.

Overall, I enjoyed this as a bit of science fiction fluff.