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Ice (Peter Owen Modern Classic) [Paperback]

Anna Kavan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Aug 2006 Peter Owen Modern Classic
The classic work by Kavan, one of the signature works in the sci-fi/slipstream genre. With an introduction by Christopher Priest. 'Astonishes with poetic brilliance' - Sunday Telegraph

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Ice (Peter Owen Modern Classic) + Stranger on Earth, A: The Life and Work of Anna Kavan + Sleep Has His House (Peter Owen Modern Classic)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Peter Owen; New edition edition (7 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0720612683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0720612684
  • Product Dimensions: 18.8 x 12.5 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 94,812 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liberating in its bizarreness 30 Dec 2007
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
'Ice' is a wonderfully strange and surreal book. It is set in an apocalyptic time, where some sort of ice age is descending upon the Earth and war rages throughout the world. No time is wasted with explanations, everything is carefully vague and non-specific. Even the characters remain unnamed.

Completely free of all the usual conventions, reading 'Ice' is rather liberating. There is no need to worry about the plot, about characterisation, about realism. Things just are as they are, and you read in the moment, enjoying the writing as it stands without thinking about what comes before and after. And the writing is good enough to enjoy for its own sake.

Some readers may wish to find allegories or deeper meaning in the story, but I preferred not to. Certainly there would be material for discussion in the book, although Kavan is so carefully vague, avoiding any sort of explanations, that almost any interpretation could be validly argued. I liked the fact that I didn't feel as though I needed to understand or find an underlying 'message' in the work.

Sometimes 'Ice' is confusing, with dream-like sequences that occur without any warning or explanation, and it is often impossible to know if the action being described is 'real time' or has moved seamlessly into fantasy, dream, prophecy or flashback. It can be disconcerting but it works surprisingly well once you accept that it is a feature of the book.

As long as you are prepared for its strangeness, I think 'Ice' is an excellent book to read. Expect to be confused and occasionally lose the thread. Don't expect to find explanations, a set plot, or realistic events. Once you understand the ground rules of 'Ice' (i.e. there are no rules) you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Don't begin your journey here if you are wanting to understand Anna Kavan as a journey, but if you are familiar with the slipstream genre and only desire to read her later novels then of course it would be fine for you. 'Ice' was one of Anna Kavan's later novels and only published a year before she died, discovered in her flat with a syringe in her hand. 'Ice' can be difficult to understand for the uninitiated in the more surreal of slipstream writing. Anna Kavan's writing is all a reflection in the pool of her amazingly disturbed life, a life fuelled by heroin addiction and 'Ice' is deeply intravenous.

`Ice' an intensely vivid story, surreal and chilling and providing the reader who is familiar with Anna Kavan with another piece in her emotional jigsaw. A sinister man known as `The Warden' is engaged in a disturbing search to locate and ultimately to control a weak and frail creature known simply as `the girl'. All the time the ice is creeping, lurking, waiting to engulf the planet which is facing a massive catastrophe.

First published in 1967 just a year before she died, but reading it today in the 21st century it is potent and apocalyptic. Perhaps not the best novel to begin reading the works of Anna Kavan, `a Scarcity of Love' is a good place to begin your journey, as is `Asylum Piece' or `Julia and the Bazooka'. Having read those you will be as hooked on her writing as all those in her growing cult following.

Anna Kavan will appeal to lovers of the works of Sylvia Plath and her fluid prose is of that same high order.

To read Anna Kavan's novels is to enter a world in which loneliness, despair and emotional turmoil blend into one personal sphere.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection 26 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Forget plot, forget character, geography, politics, motivation, development.
This is a lengthy dream sequence - characters come and go, everything is fluid. The nature of the catastrophe becomes irrelevant - is this about holocaust? Gender? Opiates? Ecology?
Strangely reminds me of Murukami
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not quite.... 14 April 2010
Despite some brilliant writing, the hallucinatory episodes, wafer thin characterisation (even after admitting that this is part of the 'point'), and quite ridiculous 'plot' make this novel influential rather than good. The militarised society parts seem anachronistic and if this had been written by a man, would be unread as mindlessly sexist.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love among future ruins 4 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on
I first encountered Anna Kavan's name in *A Reader's Guide to Twentieth Century Authors*. The bio on her life interested me in her writing. The salient points are (1) she underwent psychiatric treatment for suicide, (2) changed her name to that of a character in one of her novels, and (3) was an heroin addict for half her life. What kind of fiction, I wondered, would such a person write?
*Ice* answers the question nicely. The entry on Kavan describes it as "an impressive foray into the world of science fiction". The novel depicts a man's quest for an enigmatic woman in an apocalyptic world. Civilization is being reduced to basic elements by the encroachment of a new ice age. The heat of human emotions takes place against this looming backdrop.
It is the last novel in the second half of Kavan's literary career and is generally considered the best of that period. Although classified as science fiction, the book does not incorporate the usual futuristic gadgetry or extra-terrestrials encountered in that genre. The classification is a loose one. Just as Orwell's *1984* is more than a dystopian story and Jame's "Turn of the Screw" is more than a ghost story, so is *Ice* more than science fiction. The prose is lean, vivid; Kafkaesque in its elastic shift from realism to the bizarre.
The only flaw I find in the book lies with the publisher, not the author. Peter Dutton did not include an introduction which would have rounded out the reader's perception of the author's humanity. A finished piece of art - say, the Parthenon, van Gogh's "Sun Flowers", Kavan's *Ice* - comes to the viewer in seamless, silent perfection. Nothing of the labor and torment which begets art is revealed. To an extent, appreciation of Anna Kavan's unique artistry is stifled by the lack of a profile.
Several sites exist on the internet that provide information on the novel's author. One has several photographs of Kavan. The novel, of course, is the best introduction to this fascina! ting writer. If you like *Ice* advertises other works of hers. I have another on special order. For me she is an author worth reading.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelations from a supreme visionary 10 Dec 1999
By A Customer - Published on
How can one not discuss Anna Kavan first when discussing her work?Ice was last published novel in her lifetime, and also her masterpiece.The plot is quite simply, two men pursue a women who they constantly victimise, against a background of universal annihilation and destruction.However the book defies description, so surrealistic is the prose and so profound is the metaphor.Anna Kavan was a heroin addict for over thirty years, and had suffered two mental breakdowns which resulted in her being institutionalized. However she was a consummate artist who re-invented herself successfully as a avant garde writer (now sadly neglected). Ice is her crowning achievemnt,read it.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ice by Anna Kavan 15 Jun 2000
By A. G. Plumb - Published on
When I first read 'Ice' (from Brian Aldiss' published recommendation) I enjoyed it but didn't think it was great. It seemed to me to be about Kavan's struggle with drugs - a struggle she couldn't win. But this was a bit remote for me since I have never taken drugs. Some years later I read another Kavan novel - 'The Eagle's Nest'. This is a hot novel in comparison to the coldness of 'Ice' and, perhaps, more akin to my own personality. Anyway, it encouraged me to read 'Ice' again and now I saw it as so much stronger because it's (to me anyway) not about a futile struggle against drug addiction but something much more cosmic - the futile struggle that we all embark on against death.
I have read more Kavan since then - 'A Scarcity of Love' is great. 'Let Me Alone' is something else again. Will I ever dare reread it?
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some say in ice 23 Mar 2010
By Michael Hoffman - Published on
Anna Kavan's parable is nearly word and tone perfect. The economy of her writing strips the reader of one's hopes and preconceptions and deposits us in her frozen and impenetrable world. Her novel is as cold as anything Samuel Beckett wrote; cold in the sense of distance, and a hopelessness beyond despair and without frisson. Kavan has taken the perennial complaint about the human condition and refused to stoop to anything so simian. The eponymous Mr. Frost asked if the world would end in fire or ice, and then, by way of an answer, poked fun at the eschatology behind the question. Anna Kavan penned a book of doom that transcends eschatology. She writes with control, restraint and a terrible authority, a consequence of the immobilizing power that comprises the center of this classic work.

Copyright 2010
1.0 out of 5 stars Not my cup of tea 19 Jun 2014
By A. SPRING - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The slip stream writing in this book demands something of the reader I clearly do not have. One or two steps beyond unreliable narrator writing, rather than seeming layered, complex, and connected this book seems fractured and undisciplined. Kavan's apocalyptic story of the sadistic narrators pursuit of a fragile woman-child through a landscape of snow and enclosing walls of ice, left me feeling as exhausted as the characters she depicted in their attempts to escape from each other and the ice and snow.
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