Thursday 24 May 2018

Review: Austral

Austral Austral by Paul McAuley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

The newest nation on Earth is on the Antarctica Peninsula, a place that has now been made habitable by global warming, rising sea levels and the advent of ecopoets. These genetically modified humans had special adaptions to cope with the extreme cold and climate at the far south of the planet. Seen as sub-human, they were despised and feared by the rest of the population.

Austral Ferrado is a second generation ecopoet, or husky, as they are often called, and she has been in and out of prison as a convict and a is now corrections officer. Always skirting at the edge of the law she has been involved with the criminal mastermind there, Keever, he has a favour to ask and it is going to be one she cannot refuse. He wants her to speak to Deputy Alberto Toom, who is her uncle, as he arrives and the disturbance that will cause will be a distraction helping Keever make his escape. Except Austral has a something that she is keeping from Keever, a secret that could threaten her life if he knew.

Instead, she abandons the plan when she realises what is going to really happen, and almost by accident, kidnaps Kamilah, Toom's teenage daughter. Now on the run with her cousin, Kamilah is her ticket off Antarctica. She is going to be reliant on all her skills to stay ahead of the authorities and Keevers gang in the forests and across icy plateaus of the peninsula, but even though all their tech is off to stop them being tracked, there is still someone who knows where they are.

This alternative spin on a dystopian future set on the continent of Antarctica is a great concept by McAuley, he has taken what will become mankind's greatest challenge in the coming years and places a thriller story on it. The geoengineering that humanity had tried has not worked as they thought; some think because they shouldn't have bothered and others in the story think that they didn't go far enough. On this bleak future is the story of Austral, a woman driven by wanting to get what she feels she is owed. The plot is essentially a thriller and it is varied, fast paced and action packed at times and at others slow as she gets to know her cousin and fills in the backstory. He has managed to get a society that blends high tech elements with the low tech way that most people will be living. I am not a huge fan of thrillers, twists and turns aside, it is fairly straightforward to predict where they are going, but that shouldn't put you off reading this alternative future.

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