Zodiac Station Hardcover – 19 Jun 2014
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'Tom Harper has been writing elaborate thrillers that marry ironclad narrative skills with some of the most elegantly understated writing in the field; he's the thinking person's Dan Brown. Actually, Harper deserves the latter's success -- and more, as Harper is comfortably the better writer.' (Barry Forshaw, author of The Rough Guide to Crime Writing.)
'Harper effortlessly draws the reader into an unfamiliar time, bringing alive the characters and their motivations' (Publishers Weekly)
An extraordinary thriller set at the frozen edge of the world, perfect for fans of Dan Simmons, Michael Crichton and Dan Brown.See all Product description
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As the story continues, the reader enters the frozen world of Zodiac Station, the narrative shifting from the perspective of one to another of its scientists, focusing on Anderson, the medical doctor Kennedy and scientist Eastman, with the enigmatic figure of Greta shadowing them all. While Franklin's contribution remains in the third person, the others are immediate and in the first person, including journal extracts. All recall the disintegration of Zodiac Station deep within the Arctic, an environment that is watched over from the distance by polar bears and the faded industrial remains of people who lived and worked here long ago. Something sinister is at work and it threatens the life of everyone in the Station.
There is something wonderful about horror stories set in the deep chill of the Arctic or Antarctic. I can't get enough of them and I was so pleased, not to mention intrigued, to hear that Tom Harper had written this ghostly frozen tale. Each of Harper's extremely intelligent thrillers is different and Zodiac Station could hardly be any more different than its predecessor The Orpheus Descent which is set in parallel ancient and modern worlds in the sun-soaked Mediterranean. But, although it's very different, Zodiac Station is every bit as excellent, imbued as it is with the cold and ice of this world which is as alien to us as Plato's underworld is in The Orpheus Descent. The science station itself is as vividly portrayed as the tortured relationships being played out within it.
As one would expect from a Tom Harper thriller, the plot is deliciously clever and is as twisty as you could wish for. When all we have to go on are the words of the last inhabitants of Zodiac Station, we're advised to keep our wits alive. There are some great moments, too, not least in the Station's dedicated Thing night - original version, obviously - which, disaster or no disaster, has to go on, no matter what. This sense of absurdity, madness even, is perfectly in tune with this extraordinary environment which is threatened from without and from within. You can never forget the bears. There's not much separating man from beast in this world, nor reality from horror.
I thoroughly enjoyed Zodiac Station, every bit as much as I loved The Orpheus Descent. That was one of my top reads of 2013 and I have no reason to think Zodiac Station will fare any differently in 2014. There are moments of darkest mystery and of the most astonishing revelation. There are scenes which I could hardly read without covering my eyes and there were others that caught me completely by surprise. With midsummer just days away, Zodiac Station will make the temperature drop. I'm grateful for the review copy.
This book takes place very much in the modern world, with a Navy Coast Guard Cutter finding a survivor from a scientific expedition on an Arctic outpost. Tom Anderson has travelled from the research base and is found by the Coast Guard crew; he is wearing the jacket of another man, and it has a bloody bullet hole in it. What exactly happened out there?
We read the narrative from the perspective of several of the key players in the story; both from the Coast Guard, and mainly from members of the scientific research base. Anderson’s own story is that he was seconded to the base as a last minute urgent replacement for another member; but when he gets there the man who has requested him to be part of the scientific team is found dead in a crevasse. Was it an accident? Some members of the team do not think so. There are personal and professional tensions between members of the group who are isolated and alone in the deep Arctic world, and of other American and Russian crews also in the Arctic; here, not only polar bears can be a danger, but those with whom you are secluded.
The story moves at a great pace and is very interesting; the twist at the end seemed a little ‘scientifically’ unlikely to my very unscientific mind, but I’m happy to go with the flow of a good story. Well paced, and well populated with often rather unlikeable characters, this is another really good action thriller from Harper.
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