Fiction: Maarit Verronen: Kylmien saarten soturi (Tammi, 2001)
I’m attempting to write a novel set on Antarctica. Whenever I do anything creative, the first thing I do is to read every book, see every movie, go through everything I can find on the subject. I do it to get ideas and to make sure I’m not replicating work that’s already been done. I’m not a big believer in staying free from the taint of outside influence.
Since my book’s going to be fiction, I felt it necessary to read other novels set in similar environments and dealing with similar themes. My stepfather recommended I read the novel Kylmien saarten soturi (The Warrior of Cold Isles) by Maarit Verronen.
I found it was a very different experience reading a novel when you’re doing it as a part of the process of writing your own. I paid an unusual amount of interest in the prose style, which I found to be rather elegant and sparse, definitely something to keep in mind considering my own, often plodding efforts. Content-wise, it was a neatly packaged, cleanly edited work, a characteristic that carried over to the characters and their interactions. It subscribed to a cult of professional competence common to science fiction and offered characterization that was interesting in the sense that it made clearer to me all the things I’m not.
The first Antarctica book and the one that got me started on the subject years ago was Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica, a contemporary scifi novel with magnificent descriptions of Antarctic atmosphere and characters so wooden, it was hard to see them as anything else than vectors carrying the plot along.
Since then, I’ve read a lot of other books before I got the idea of writing about them here, so all the classics will be left out. The best one, without a doubt, has to be Stephen J. Pyne’s juggernaut of a conceptual analysis, The Ice.