The Frozen Sky, by Jeff Carlson
Something is alive inside Jupiter’s ice moon Europa. Robot probes find an ancient tunnel beneath the surface, its walls carved with strange hieroglyphics. Led by elite engineer Alexis Vonderach, a team of scientists descends into the dark… where they confront a savage race older than mankind…
Based on the award-winning short story, The Frozen Sky is a new full-length sci fi thriller novel from the international bestselling author of Plague Year.”
I got hold of a copy of The Frozen Sky direct from Jeff Carlson after entering a LibraryThing giveaway earlier in the month.
After the event ended Jeff was quick to get in touch and offer me whatever e-book format I needed. So it wasn’t long before I was off and running, and I mean running – from page 1 – with his main character, Alexis “Vonnie” Vonderach as she struggled alone and injured in the dark.
It didn’t take me any time at all to devour the story and this was certainly not due to any paucity of text. I found I really enjoyed The Frozen Sky and it was, in the oft used cliche, a genuine page turner. The writing was, for me at least, reminiscent of the intelligent writing of Crichton in books such as Prey and Next.
The setting of TFS on Jupiter’s moon, Europa was intriguing. Still local to Earth to ground it in today but alien enough to give it distance from everything familiar.
As I’ve already indicated, the action gets off to an explosive start and chucks the reader right in. Perhaps the lack of detail early on might put off some, but I enjoyed the way we joined the action at a critical point and the genesis of Vonnie’s predicament was then revealed to us; the onion layers swiftly peeled back.
When the initial peril had passed I did start to become worried if I’d seen the best of it, and that the pace would slacken into a more moral debate about the alien “sunfish” at the heart of the story, but fortunately I was not to be disappointed. Carlson quickly and effectively slammed the gear right up again, even if the second predicament that befell the human protagonists was to my mind a bit too clearly telegraphed.
Carlson’s characters were solid and believable and whilst the apparently factional political background back on Earth was less than fleshed out, I didn’t have a problem with it. For me the way it was handled neatly mirrored the sense of distance I felt existed between those on Earth pulling the strings and the men and women on the Europa expedition, separated by thousands of miles and minutes of communication delay.
Given the subject it was tackling, the story did at times come close to being a little preachy, particularly with its obvious parallels with earth’s unfortunate domestic history of bloody first contacts with new cultures, but ultimately I think it trod the line well. I found the attention to the science and biology of the “Sunfish” particularly gratifying as it could so easily have been glossed over given they were “aliens”.
If I was to pick any holes it would be first the constant reference to “sims” which seemed a phrase too liberally sprinkled through the narrative to explain the various analyses being undertaken, and second the convenience of Lam. Although I must say Lam’s story was neatly led into from the start so when the thread re-emerged strongly it did not jar the narrative.
All in all a great read. I’d certainly recommend it.
Get it on Amazon now.