Books, life the universe

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Cold Earth

Cold Earth by Sarah Moss is a debut novel by an academic. I found it very well written and beautifully produced by the publisher Granta. It features a group of six ill assorted people who go on an archaeological dig in a remote part of Greenland.
It is divided into sections each narrated by a member of the expedition. There are three men and three woman and five out of the six have experience in the field, though Nina hasn't and the others can't really understand why she is there which makes for tension from the start. The other big underlying tension is the spread of an epidemic virus in the rest of the world. Will there be a world for them to go back to?
It soon becomes clear the narrators are writing letters to people they do not believe they will see again. Mixed in with this is Nina seeing ghosts of marauding Greenlanders. Is she mad? Or are the people buried in the graves they are excavating displeased by the intrusion? Several of the reviewers on Amazon state the plot is not original. Well no but there are only supposed to be seven basic plots in the whole of fiction so I don't think this should be counted against it! I thought it was an excellent first novel and worth reading if you like the idea of a different setting. Of course the pandemic is topical which helps.
I thought the way some of the characters react when they find their Internet connection doesn't work and the satellite phone they were relying on doesn't work either was very true to life. I liked it even though some reviewers have called it facile and shallow and compared it unfavourably with Albert Camus. Well yes I would have thought much modern fiction wouldn't stand that comparison! Sometimes people try to be a little too superior!

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