February 2012

Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell

Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell

I have previously read and reviewed Tobias S. Buckell’s Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin, both of which I enjoyed. On the other hand, I am skeptical of alarmist claims about global warming. So it was with some ambivalence, a mixture of excitement and trepidation, that I began reading my advance review copy (ARC) of Buckell’s latest novel — his first foray into techno-thrillers — Arctic Rising (Tor, 2012). Though he had me worried a time or two, I was pleasantly surprised and glad I read it.

Arctic Rising is set in the near future — the Earth is warmer and the Arctic Circle is largely ice-free year-round. States and corporations are racing to take advantage of the new oversea North Pole trade route and the untapped resources made accessible by the receding ice. As you might expect, this is a situation ripe for political conflict, and environmentalists are none-too-happy with the change in climate either.

Buckell handles the environmental angle fairly gracefully. The global warming issue mainly shows up as background, for the setting, and as a plot device. Speaking of the plot, don’t read the GoodReads description of the book if you prefer to avoid major spoilers.

For the most part he avoids thumping you over the head with an ideological bludgeon. The one time I got really worried he was going to spoil the book for me was about 3/4ths of the way through when the co-founders of a green energy corporation go off on a talking point–ridden tag-team duologue, but let’s just say that the impact was lessened by the way they were subsequently portrayed.

Unlike many environmentalists I’ve encountered, Buckell has no difficulty recognizing that global warming would be harmful to some but also beneficial to others; that, contrary to the frequent warnings of doom and gloom, it wouldn’t be all bad. Sea levels would rise. But rising temperatures would open up more arable land in the north. While already hot regions might get detrimentally hotter, colder climes would get warmer as well and benefit from longer growing seasons. Resources previously buried under tons of ice would become open to exploitation. Moreover, once people have adjusted to the warmer temperatures, a return to colder temperatures of previous decades would result in winners and losers as well. There are no neutral climate changes; any changes in the Earth’s climate will have both positive and negative consequences.

As Arctic Rising opens, we are introduced to our sole viewpoint character — one Anika Duncan, a mixed-race Nigerian airship pilot for the chronically underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. As the story progresses we gradually learn more about her colorful past as a child soldier and later a mercenary pilot. When offered her dream job by the UN, prior to the start of the action, Anika had jumped at the chance for a safer, less eventful career doing what she loved.

And things were nice and quiet for Anika… until a hunch leads her to take a second look at a freighter. When something radioactive in the ship sets off her neutron scatter camera, Anika, thinking they are just nuclear waste dumpers, orders them to prepare for boarding. But the crew respond by blowing her and her co-pilot, Tom, out of the sky and into the still-frigid waters of the Arctic. Something bigger than nuclear waste dumping is going on here.

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I’ve made a number of changes and improvements to Prometheus Unbound recently.

I think the three most important are our new mailing list, Support page, and Dwolla account.

Email Newsletter

Previously, you could subscribe to our posts via email using a widget in our sidebar powered by Feedburner. That you could do this was not obvious, however.

We now have a new and improved mailing list powered by MailChimp. And there’s a new email subscription form at the top of the sidebar. It should be hard to miss.

I’ve kept the subscription form simple. All you have to do is enter your email address and click “subscribe.” Later, you can choose to add more information to your account profile, such as your name. You can also choose to receive the email newsletter in html (default), plain text, or mobile format.

Once subscribed, you will receive an email in your inbox at the end of any day on which we have published new posts. We may also use the mailing list to send out the occasional special announcement. We promise not to spam your inbox.

If you’re subscribed to our posts via Feedburner or WordPress.com (Jetpack), please switch over to the new mailing list.

Support Page and Dwolla

Over the past few weeks and months I’ve added more ways that you can support Prometheus Unbound. I’ve also added a Support page that lays out clearly all of the ways you can support our work, both financially and non-financially, as well as what we plan to do with any money we receive. Big plans. But we need your help to accomplish them. Head on over there and check it out.

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NEWS | 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award Finalists Announced Thumbnail

Falling Free by Lois McMaster BujoldFinalists for the 2012 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award were announced over the weekend.

As a reminder to our readers, we are open to submissions of reviews (as well as news, articles, interviews). Even if you can’t contribute regularly, we’d like to have a number of part-timers who only contribute occasionally. We’re even open to one-time contributors.

So if you’d like to read and review one of the finalists, nominees, past winners, or another piece of fiction, we’d be happy to consider it for publication.

Below is the full press release from the Libertarian Futurist Society, which presents the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award:

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NEWS | The Right to Free Speech and Firefly on Campus Thumbnail

Malcolm Reynolds, FireflyHave you heard the story about the college professor who was harassed by campus police over a poster of Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly that he put up outside of his office?

I happened to be visiting FIRE’s website today and noticed a video about the story. I first heard about this story a couple of months ago but for some reason didn’t write about it here at the time. It’s a particularly interesting news story for me because it occurred at the intersection of three of my interests: libertarianism, science fiction, and (higher) education. FIRE is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, whose mission is defending said rights in higher education.

For those who might have missed the story, and in the interests of curating it here, I might as well do a “news” post about it now, eh?

To make a long story short, the campus police at the University of Wisconsin–Stout had a policy of censoring posters that were suggestive of violent threats. James Miller, a professor of theater and speech had put up a poster of Mal with a line of his from the pilot episode of Firefly:

You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.

The incident escalated from there, to the point that Miller contacted FIRE for help. Then the SF community got involved. Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and even Neil Gaiman notified their million-plus Twitter followers about the case. The university at first defended the censorship (free speech in academia!, eh? only for PC speech), but eventually folded under the mounting pressure from free speech advocates and Firefly fans.

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