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The Ice People

by Bryony Harrison (follow)
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the ice people, maggie gee

Maggie Gee is an English novelist born in 1948, and was the first woman to chair the Royal Society of Literature between 2004-2008. She is now one of the organisation's vice presidents, and is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.

Gee has written a total of twelve novels, The Ice People (1998), being her ninth. It is comparable to Richard McCarthy's The Road, in that it tells the story about an alternative dystopian future through the relationship of a father and son.

While we are currently facing environmental issues over global warming, Maggie Gee instead imagines a future where we experience a global cooling that leads to the next Ice Age. As with many of her books, The Ice People deals with political and social awareness, along with science and biology. She explores the results of feminist extremism, and what life might be like under a matriarchal rule. The outlook isn't good.

Gee explores a global catastrophe through the perspective of one man. Told in the first person, we first meet Saul as an old man in the latter half of the twenty-first century, when humanity appears to have significantly devolved. He lives with a group of nomadic 'wild children', who have 'roars and grunts for names.' Although not afraid of death, he stays alive by telling the youths stories. The main story they like to hear is the one about his life, and how strange and different things were back in the past. In keeping with the simplified language that the wild children use, the book is written in a similar style, with short plain sentences.

Saul used to be married to a wonderful woman called Sarah. They were madly in love, but as the world began to get colder, so did their relationship. The arguments started out small. For example, Saul objects to their son, Luke, dressing up in women's clothes, while Sarah does not have a problem with it. Little things like this, escalate, however, when Sarah becomes a political activist for women's rights.

As women gain more and more political power, radical laws are put into place, such as segregation of the sexes, and women having total guardianship of the children.

For Saul, this is a bridge too far, and he kidnaps his son. Now on the run, they face an uncertain future with harsh weather conditions and technology failing at every turn.

The Ice People makes you question a lot of your political views, on topics such as the environment, gender, artificial intelligence, and race. Gee effectively shows contrasting views of a chronological period. For example, in the beginning there is contestation about allowing in refugees, but later the wealthy countries find themselves on the other side of the fence, wanting to gain access to warmer climates.

Maggie Gee's novel is an engaging piece of literature that will make readers reconsider their own political standings, and is excellent choice for book club debates. It is something that will remain ever current, because these issues will never go away.

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Interesting. It sounds kind of like the opposite of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I suspect this book would annoy me, but I'm curious enough to read it.
What elements do you think would annoy you?
Not having read it yet I can only speculate, but it sounds over the top anti-feminist. The Handmaid's Tale is about a future dystopia in which women have been completely subjugated by men. It's not all that far fetched since women do face that situation in many countries today, and even in some of the wealthy developed nations we see laws being made which regulate what we are and aren't allowed to do with our own bodies. For the opposite to occur sounds positively farcical. Where Atwood's book is a warning about something that could happen if we let it, this doesn't sound plausible at all. Again, that's without having read it yet. Maybe it will surprise me.

It also sounds like a bit of a mishmash of ideas from existing books (The Handmaid's Tale, The Road, Oryx and Crake). That's not necessarily a bad thing, since none of those are wholly original anyway and there are only so many stories to tell. It's what you do with the ideas that matter. If it's really well written it won't come across as hackneyed.
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