It's been a little while since my last blog post, but my absence here is due to an understandable reason. Not only did I finally made my big move to Connecticut, I managed to find myself a new teaching job too. This is my first review from New England, and I'm writing it in between figuring out how to pay my rent online and lesson planning for my new seventh graders. I was afraid to make this move, but it's worked out better than I could have hoped so far.
But anyway, I digress. I did manage to finish reading a book towards the beginning of this month and never got around to reviewing it here. It was a doozy too. Icebreaker by Lian Tanner is a fever dream of a novel, with a premise so improbable and a setting so bizarre that the whole thing should be a literary train wreck. However, this odd little story is surprisingly compelling and it made for some enjoyable guilty pleasure reading.
I will endeavor to explain the plot as I normally do, but it won't be an easy task. There's a lot you have to wrap your brain around to be able to slip into this world. The story is set on an old icebreaker ship that maintains a constant, circular course around the arctic. The ship has been traveling the same course for 300 years without stopping. Whatever the crew's original mission was has long since been forgotten, and the descendants of these people have organized themselves into three warring tribes comprised of the officers, the cooks, and the engineers. They spend all their time in a combination of maintaining the ship, fishing for sustenance, and fighting with each other. Their whole world is the icebreaker. They have never experienced life any other way.
The protagonist of the story, a young girl named Petrel, is unique in that she has no tribe. Her parents were executed for a crime when she was just a baby and ever since then, all of the groups shun her. Her life is lonely, but she's a tough kid and has managed to survive mostly on her own. Her only friends are two large gray rats that can talk and appear to be at least partly mechanical. You see what I meant by calling this novel a fever dream? I don't know how Tanner managed to think this stuff up.
Anyway, one day Petrel spies something unheard of--she seems a boy floating on a piece of ice in the sea. Hoping to have found a friend at last, she sneaks him aboard the ship and tries to form a bond with him. All is not what is seems, however, because the boy isn't just a stranded kid. He's been sent on a secret mission from the outside world to destroy something valuable hidden on the ship. What follows is an adventure that causes Petrel to go from being the forgotten girl to a young woman who stands up for herself and fights to protect what she holds most dear.
There's so much about Icebreaker that just doesn't make any sense or is completely impossible. You have to be willing to suspend your disbelief to enjoy it, but if you can do that, it's actually not too bad. Petrel is an interesting character that changes and grows throughout the novel, the story is intriguing enough to keep you turning the pages, and its pacing is just right. This is a quick read that's perfect for those times when you want to escape to a different world for a little while, but you don't want to have to think too much. It's a fairly well-written dystopian sci-fi novel for young readers.
I don't have much to say beyond that, so I fear this won't be a very detailed review. What I can say is that I'm glad to have given this novel a shot. It will make a great addition to my woefully inadequate new classroom library. Hopefully one of my wayward seventh graders will pick it up and see themselves in Petrel or fall in love with its improbable, crazy world.
Total Books Read in 2018: 32