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Peter Brennan
Iceapelago 2091
It’s thirty years since the collapse of the Gulf Stream and the arrival of the tsunamis from La Palma and the Eriador Ridge off Ireland’s Continental Shelf that created Iceapelago; thirty islands that were once Ireland. The survivors struggle in pre-medieval conditions to secure food and medicines ahead of Winter Day when tundra conditions lock down Iceapelago for months on end. The Commander, the titular head of Iceapelago, tries his best to manage rising dissent and dissatisfaction. He is supported by some but not all of the elected leaders, the Sixes and Sheriffs from the islands. An Arctic storm that arrives on the eve of Winter Day causes havoc.
Brennan’s near-future dystopian thriller portrays an Ireland shattered by environmental catastrophe into 30 islands where small groups of survivors struggle with weather, dwindling supplies, and governance issues. The Commander, ruler of this "Iceapelago," struggles with his responsibilities and a sometimes contentious relationship with local councils—the "Sixes" and sheriffs. An impending storm serves as a catalyst for violence against the current leadership, while other residents have their own agendas, especially Ruth Henry, who manages the Iceapelago's essential drone fleet, and Rory, a sheriff with a chip on his shoulder.

Brennan, who has a background in climate studies, effectively shows how individuals adapt to new, shocking situations. Rory's "army boots were removed from a corpse at the time of the flood without a second thought," and the boats no longer have life jackets: "life had little value." Occasionally, the point of view switches to wild animals, especially the arctic foxes, who are also struggling, a pivot that grants an especially rich perspective on the environmental calamity, despite interrupting the main narrative. In fact, the story feels crowded at times, with too many characters and plot lines to gain a deep sense for any of them, but the glimpses are engaging, and each story moves at a swift pace.

The most engrossing aspect of this apocalyptic adventure is Brennan's vision of how humans may organize themselves in a dystopian society. He has meticulously mapped out a future, as shown when the local Six offers Rory the sheriff's job, and we see a community that runs with a curious—and plausible—mix of democracy and commonsense oligarchy. But Brennan doesn’t shy away from the potential abuses: as the rulers become more desperate, they become more dictatorial, meting out swift and violent justice. Indeed, the book offers reasons for both hope and despair—and a message of our environmental future that will resonate long after the final page is read.

Takeaway: Sci-fi and climate fiction fans will relish this richly detailed—and all-too-possible—dystopian actioner.

Great for fans of: Diane Cook’s The New Wilderness, M. R. Carey’s Ramparts Trilogy.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: A-
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: B