Icefields

Thomas Wharton wrote a fictitious book about a group of people who basically live in a glacier community called Jasper. It begins with a small group who travel to the Arcturus Glacier in the Canadian Rockies in 1898 to adventure and name mountains and glacial aspects others have never viewed before. Dr. Edward Byrne is one of those in the group and he falls head first into an ice crevasse in the first few pages. His group realize what happened and are able to save him, but while he is down in the crevasse he sees something in the ice.

Icefields” is written wonderfully in terms of imagery and emotion which tends to show up in italics.

The italics were different peoples poetry or journal entries throughout. They were personalized, raw and didn’t always make sense until I read them again. Ordinarily that would frustrate me but in this book it intrigued me.

The imagery was appealing because of course it’s an entire book about ice. How many different ways can one describe their surroundings when they are surrounded by ice? Well, you’d be surprised my friends.

After Dr. Byrne is saved from the ice he is brought to the nearest house, which happens to be the home of Sara. Sara nurses him back to proper health before he leaves the frigid place for his home in England. But Sara knows he will be back because in his delirious state she hears him talk about the mysterious thing he saw in the ice.

When Dr. Byrne does end up back at the Arcturus Glacier it is ten years later and a lot has changed. There is now a tiny town of Jasper where at one point only Sara and a small handful of other people had lived. Dr. Byrne meets the explorer Freya; the poet Hal; and Elspeth who he falls in love with. And of course one of the old group Trask, who wishes to turn the entire glacier community into a tourist attraction.

Things get a little tricky and difficult to follow as each person has their own thing happening. But for the most part everything ends up focusing back on Dr. Byrne who is in search of the mystery he saw a decade ago. As a doctor and scientist he ends up setting up tent near a place where he sees the glacier receding. He calculate and waits and watches in hopes that the area where he fell will be in view soon thanks to warming and melting of the glacier in areas.

*****SPOILER ALERT*****

There is a bit of a love triangle between Freya, Hal and Byrne. We know Byrne loves Elspeth but there is a sexual charge of sorts between him and Freya. But Hal loves Freya, and as a sappy poet he envisions life with her and kids and everything. At one point in the book she falls through the ice or a tip of it gives way somehow while she is out with Hal. He goes to save her, but she’s dead. After losing the love of his life he carries her in a mad state to Dr. Byrne. He ends up leaving and being placed in a hospital away from Jasper. Then he ends up going to war and coming back to Jasper years later. It’s a jumble and it’s mixed into everything else happening with Dr. Byrne.

As Trask continues developing the area there ends up being a railway put in, roads put in and a plethora of other things. Dr. Byrne fights about it saying the ice is unstable and it’s dangerous to build a tourist attraction there.

Elspeth spends time up on the mountain with Dr. Byrne on occasion, but she argues with him about whatever he thinks he saw when he fell. I don’t like her character development at all. I really don’t understand her place in the book. But Dr. Byrne is quite fond of her and maybe she is the reason he doesn’t lose his mind completely while living in a tent out on the ice.

My trouble is the open end. There isn’t enough of a plot or development to warrant a sequel and yet the end is left open like you should be expecting one. Though I can’t imagine any type of sequel would be more than a chapter long. The entire book is a journey, a search for something one researcher saw a decade ago when he fell into an ice crevase. He never finds it…or does he? No, really, I have no idea.

Interested, then buy Icefields and give it a read I would love to know what you think.

Share