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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Always North by Vicki Jarrett



Official Author Website
Order Always North over HERE(USA) or HERE (UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Vicki Jarrett lives and works in her native Edinburgh. Her first novel, Nothing is Heavy, was shortlisted for the Saltire Society Scottish First Book of the Year 2013. Her short fiction has been widely published and broadcast, shortlisted for the Scotland on Sunday/Macallan Short Story Competition, Manchester Fiction Prize and Bridport Prize. The Way Out is her first story collection.


FORMAT/INFO: Always North is 320 pages long and is standalone. The book is currently available in ebook and paperback formats. It was published on October 21, 2019 by Unsong Stories Limited. Cover Artwork by Caleight Illerbrun. Cover design by Vince Haig.


OVERVIEW:

This isn’t a comic book. We do not have twenty-four hours to save the Earth. The world’s already fucked, and we’re all fucked along with it. That’s not my fault and it’s not yours.’
Climate fiction matters. The world changes and normal doesn’t exist anymore, just ask my grandparents ;) I believe powerful fiction can impact readers’ behaviors stronger than the raw scientific data or orders and prohibitions. Subtlety works better than brute force. At least for some. 

Always North is an ambitious book about the collapsing environment, our accountability, mysterious workings of mind and memory, and the nature of time. It’s set over two time-frames and settings: an oil survey vessel in the Arctic Ocean in 2025 and the Scottish Highlands in 2045. 

Isobel, a software engineer, joins a team surveying the Arctic seabed for oil deposits. Along the way, the ship draws the attention of a mysterious polar bear whose appearances will give you goose-bumps. The journey ends in a bloody disaster. The story makes a time jump to show the environmentally ravaged world in which jobs are in short supply. Like most people, Isobel is struggling to make ends meet. To her, the world went apeshit.


‘Just more and worse of everything. Riots. Gangs on the increase. More people, not enough food or shelter to go around. The government too stretched or too preoccupied with saving their own skins to do anything about it.’

Isobel changed. A lot. When we first met her, she was self-centered and living to the fullest on her own terms. Her older self is harder and more conscious. When one of her old crew members (and lovers) shows up and offers her a job, she accepts. With the help of advanced technology, she revisits her memories of the expedition to discover what and how went wrong.  

This part of the story, with its flashback segments, has a surreal quality. Jarrett’s writing conveys the intensity of near-endless daylight and bleakness of the frozen wasteland with stunning and evocative descriptions. She controls the narrative with clear but impactful writing that awed me. Her prose is elegant, subtle and compacted. It gives the first half of Always North the velocity of a thriller. The second half of the novel experiments with the structure and can feel meandering to some readers. 

Conclusion: Jarrett ends her tale with an incomplete yet touching ending I found perfect. She combines elements of eco-horror, sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic dystopia in something fresh and unique. Not an easy book to follow, but I won’t forget about it anytime soon. 

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