Zodiac Station (book, Tom Harper, 2014)

A review from #SFX 249. Funny, I can’t remember this book at all. Sounds good though.


Author: Tom Harper

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Ice Station Hero

Cheerfully referencing a host of polar-set SF stories from Frankenstein to the Thing, Zodiac Station starts out as a mystery, segues through the spy genre into techno-thriller territory before becoming full-blown speculative fiction. Pacy, sharp, and beautifully described, it is one of those books for which the cliché “hard to put down” is happily true.

Numerous characters tell us our tale, starting and concluding with Tom Anderson. Picked up near-death from an ice floe by a coastguard ship (a la Victor Frankenstein), he is a biologist who’s all out of luck when he was unexpectedly invited to join the crew of the eponymous Arctic research station by his old mentor, only to find the man dead when he arrives. Further testimony is given by other survivors from the now-destroyed base. They contradict and interweave with each other, until the shocking truth(s) comes out.

It’s a necessarily artificial way of telling a story – nobody delivers such dramatically artful witness statements – but it can be forgiven. Harper draws us in, scattering clues like those in a point-and-click videogame adventure, a format for which Zodiac Station would be admirably suited. And in this case, that’s a compliment.

To go into too much detail risks spoilers, so we’ll leave it at that. Harper, who did a ton of research, describes the Arctic fantastically well. Overall it’s not quite as accomplished as Dan Simmon’s Arctic fantasy The Terror, but it comes damn close, and that’s no mean thing. Great holiday reading, we’d say.

Did you know?

Harper grew up in Germany, Belgium, and America. It sounds 007-glamorous, but then he spent his early working life in the pensions industry.