For the last few years I’ve taken part in the Global Reading Challenge hosted by Kerrie of Mysteries in Paradise. Even though I manage to come up a bit short each year I still try to read three works of fiction from, or at least set in each of the seven continents. Since Antarctica isn’t home to a lot of people, to make things a bit easier-and interesting-Kerrie has broadened the concept of the Seventh Continent to cover all kinds of stuff. According to her,”it can be the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future-you name it.” In year’s past, for my Seventh Continent I’ve chosen zombie apocalypses, alternate realities and post-apocalyptic landscapes. But I’ve never read anything actually set in Antarctica. Until now.
One weekend afternoon at the public library I came across a copy of Mirko Bonné’s 2013 novel The Ice-Cold Heaven. At first glance I wasn’t too keen on reading it, probably because wasn’t in the mood for any fiction. But after closer inspection, once I saw the The Ice-Cold Heaven is Bonné’s fictionalized account of the Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. For years I’ve been fascinated with this tale of astounding leadership and human endurance, ever since the night I saw a TV documentary on the expedition when I was a young. Since then I’ve read an article about it in National Geographic and seen yet another documentary. As I grow older and learn to appreciate the importance of quality leadership (while at the same time have less and less patience with poor leadership) I realize that Shackleton’s ability to keep his team of 28 men alive for close to three years in the frozen wastelands of Antarctica is nothing close to amazing. Therefore, when given an opportunity to read a novelization of that expedition, I jumped on it.
Bonné, a German author, wrote his novel from the perspective of Merce Blackboro, a seventeen-year-old Welsh stowaway. Already the survivor of one shipwreck, with the assistance of several of Shackleton’s men he secretly boards the Endurance while the expedition takes on supplies in Argentina. After being discovered and brought before the Captain, upon meeting the young stowaway Shackleton rages with angry wrath. But his wrath (which was probably an act just to test the young man’s mettle) quickly dissipates and soon Shackleton becomes a father figure to the young Welshman. Of course, like any great tale of youthful adventure, Merce will grow and profit from this relationship. And he will need to because the adverse circumstances these men have been cast into will definitely test their limits.
While this novel didn’t blow me away, I nevertheless enjoyed it. Just the story itself is enough to hold one’s interest. Of course, it’s not everyday one gets the chance to read a novel set in Antarctica. So really, I can’t complain.