This is an absorbing dual-time-period adventure novel. In 2013, a three-member crew sets out for Everland, an Antarctic island, retracing the steps of another three-member crew who made the trip in 1913. The modern-day crew (Decker, Jess, and Brix) parallels the crew of one hundred years earlier (Millet-Bass, Napps, and Dinners). Decker and Millet-Bass are the seasoned, tough explorers; Jess and Napps are outwardly tough but turn out to have surprising vulnerabilities; Brix and Dinners are the physically weak scientists whose money or influence secures them a place on the expedition and the resentment of their crew members. At first the parallels between the two crews seem too obvious, but as the novel progresses, the relationship dynamics become more complex. The physical challenges each crew faces become secondary to their ethical and moral dilemmas, which are also complicated by their increasingly unstable mental states.
Hunt’s prose is so spare and terse that I wasn’t surprised to find out she visited the High Arctic, as if she was so cold while she was writing that she didn’t want to waste a word! At the same time, some passages are lyrical: “hope had become like a filthy secret which both men were too ashamed to speak of.” Hunt vividly describes the sensory details of this frozen landscape and what it does to the human body. Warning: also vividly described are a few scenes of animal killing and torture.
Hunt skillfully depicts the increasing tension and shifting loyalties among both crews. Ethical considerations become murky, and secrets are easily kept in such an isolated setting: “If what actually happened and the perceived truth were contradictory, it was irrelevant. Because no one would ever know the difference.” Recommended.