Antarktos Rising by Jeremy Robinson

I’ve had my eye on Jeremy Robinson for a while. He’s a self-published author running his own publishing imprint (Breakneck Books), and he’s one who seems to be going places. After spotting a couple of glowing reviews on some blogs, I had to get hold of this.

I love the concept Robinson came up with. America inexplicably freezes, while Russia boils, and Antarctica thaws. The earth’s crust has tilted forty degrees on its axis. All the earth’s nations are now in ruins, with billions dead. As humanity picks itself up from the apocalypse, the remaining governments seek to claim Antarctica (later named Antarktos) as their new home. Rather than descending into war, all the nations agree to a participate in a race. The first three to reach the centre of Antarktos will divide the continent into three equal sections. The losing nations will have to make do with the harsh conditons of their present homeland.

After only two months of mild weather conditions, Antarktos has mysteriously transformed into a lush paradise. Trees and plants have grown at an alarming rate. The thaw also reveals Antarktos to have been inhabited in the distant past, eons ago when it wasn’t covered in ice. Worse still, the thaw has released Antarktos’s wildlife from a state of cryonic suspension. The race teams not only have to outwit and outrun each other (with talented assassins and Arab terrorists in the mix), but they must also face dangerous dinosaurs and do battle with a more intelligent enemy – mentioned briefly in the Bible: giants, known as the Nephilim, recorded in Genesis chapter 6.

From the beginning, the story is divided up into several sub-plots. We follow Dr. Merrill Clark, Antarctic explorer, as he experiences the changes on the continent first-hand. We follow Mira Whitney, in the USA, who must escape an incoming tsunami followed by a rapid freeze. We see right inside the lives of Arab terrorists, intent on sabotaging the American race team. And there are Russians and Chinese sub-plots, too. All the jumping around from place to place does unfortunately have a negative affect on the story’s pacing, but it did help maintain the sense of epic promised in the story’s premise. Occasionally, I got impatent, eager for the race to get moving and the real adventure to start.

The first point where the story faltered a little for me was when Dr. Clark emerged from a naturally dry valley in Antarctica and discovered that all the ice had gone, leaving only soil and rock. The temperature had risen, then the ice had melted and presumably flowed out to sea. But I had to ask myself: why didn’t the water flow into the valley and drown Dr. Clark? A valley, by definition, is lower than the surrounding land. No matter how I tried to think about it, I couldn’t conceive of how one man could survive the “birth pains” of the new continent. I put this plot-hole aside, hoping it would be the only one. Sadly, a little later we see Whitney in the USA hiding from men with guns by pretending to be dead. However, she’s in sub-zero temperatures. The author seemed to forget that the very act of breathing would betray her, as her warm breaths hit the frigid air. Maybe I’m nit-picking, but it bugged me, because I thought it should have been so obvious. To be fair, though, the novel wasn’t littered with these inconsistencies.

The author makes a reasonable attempt to add a more intimate and personal side to the story. The lives of the principle characters are fleshed out. We even see the terrorists’ motives from inside their own heads. But none of it rings true enough for me. The characters were just too straightforward and uncomplicated, their actions occasionally spoiled by melodrama. The novel just lacks a necessary richness in the area of characterisation. And that’s a great pity, because that’s one of the main things I’m after, as a reader. If the characters don’t come alive in my imagination, even the most original and action-packed story will fail for me.

Antarktos Rising is essentially a cross-genre novel. Nothing wrong with that, in principal; genre definitions are merely labels to determine where a book should be placed in a store. Antarktos Rising starts out as a thriller with sci-fi leanings, but by the end it’s in full-fledged fantasy territory. Robinson starts off by appealing to those who like their fiction grounded in something close to reality; he goes to great pains to inject some science into his theory of the earth’s crust shifting. But at the end, we have winged beasts and magical healing powers. Those who where expecting a scientific explanation for the accelerated growth of Antarktos will be disappointed to discover that it boils down to an explanation more at home in a Tolkien-esque fantasy. All I’m saying is, you have to like both genres. You have to be able to handle the massive suspension of disbelief that is part-and-parcel of any fantasy novel right alongside scientific thrillers, which typically thrive on rationality. This strikes me as a hard sell, and it didn’t quite work for me.

It’s more than just thriller plus fantasy. There’s a religious side to the story. I have no problem with that, in principle, and I think it’s good that a writer injects his own beliefs into his fiction. That’s writing from the heart, after all. However, there was something strange about reading two characters debate about the historicity of the Biblical Flood inside a novel that was already steeped in so much fantasy. If you want to convince a reader that the events of the Bible really happened, you’re going to need to place your argument in a more reliable context. As a Christian myself, I felt Robinson went a little too far when he suggested that the Flood was not God punishing mankind for its wickedness (as stated in the Bible), but God wiping out a race of demon-human hybrids that had mixed with man’s bloodline. The Flood, he suggests, was a means of restoring humanity back to a pure bloodline. I’m shocked that a Christian author would dare to mix fantasy with reality and be so bold as to misrepresent the will of God.

I hate having to voice all these criticisms, because I really wanted to love this book. In fairness, there were some really atmospheric scenes. The short chapters, many of which ended in cliff-hangers, kept the pages turning. Robinson, as a self-published author, is one of the minority who are doing self-publishing the right way – taking time to shine their prose up so that it sparkles. Robinsons’s grammar, punctuation and style are almost indistinguishable from a professional novelist’s. I think, however, that the story could have benefitted greatly by being submitted to some hardcore critiques prior to publication. The plot-holes alone make me suspect that Robinson is running a one-man show. Every writer needs his advisers.

Overall, this is a story that attempts to be great and succeeds in being good. It’s clear that the author is working to the best of his ability and aiming for the top, which is something I can respect. And I hope that Jeremy Robinson continues to hone his craft with future novels. It struck me that fans of Jules Verne in particular may appreciate this novel.

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4 thoughts on “Antarktos Rising by Jeremy Robinson

  1. A.P. Fuchs says:

    I haven’t read the book, but my thoughts in regards to the flood issue are, yes, God was “starting over” with humankind, so He did wipedout everyone save Noah and his family because Noah and his family were the only righteous folks living on Earth. However, a “side effect” of the flood was the erasure of the demon-human hybrids, called the Nephilum. Their birth is mentioned in Genesis 6 (I think it’s chapter 6). I’m sure that the destruction of the Nephilum was part of the overall flood plan since God knew they existed. But the driving force, as the Bible says, was mankind got so wicked that the Lord actually grieved He created us. One can only wonder what He’s feeling nowadays, as we’re making a HUGE mess of things and we’re once more living in the “days of Noah,” just like Jesus said we would before He returns.

  2. Rob says:

    It’s funny that you should notice problems in this novel and not notice anything wrong with the Bible. Example: the god you believe in is thought to be omnipotent – he created the whole universe, the galaxies and all – and yet, he would have used… rain (!) to destroy the evil humans! Why not make them disappear – you know, à la rapture?
    The reason is because the flood story was borrowed from the Greeks. You see the Greeks believed that Zeus, the sky god, was fed up with the wickedness of mankind, and so he decided to do away with it – so he flooded the Earth. The reason Zeus used rain is simple: Zeus was the god of the sky and, like gods usually did, he used the tools that his realm – here the sky – gave him. In this case, lightning and… precipitation!

    I used to be a Christian. But a few years ago I made the “mistake” of studying Greek Mythology. Let’s just say that it opened my eyes – I’ve been an Atheist ever since! A hint: most of what you’ll find in the NT and OT comes from Greek mythology, including the “giants in the earth”, the god who impregnates a woman who then gives birth to a semi-god (a mortal who has powers, like Hercules or Jesus), etc.

  3. Darryl Sloan says:

    It’s up to God whether he wants to use a natural flood or a supernatural rapture technique to destroy the human race. I see nothing needful in the latter. The physical universe serves his will, and it is only in the rarest of circumstances that he seems to choose to break the physical laws he created. To balk at the fact that God won’t demonstrate his omnipotence when you think he should … that might actually say more about you than about God. I’m not trying to be rude; I think I’ve been where you are. In the past, I’ve abandoned my faith, thinking that I had my head screwed on. It’s all too easy to latch onto a flimsy argument in order to abandon something you wish to abandon.

    The presence of a flood account in Greek myth, and in the writings of other ancient religions, amplifies the likelihood that an actual event took place. The differences in these accounts are down to the gradual corruption of history handed down through the generations. It’s quite a stretch to claim that the Hebrews borrowed from the Greeks. The most reasonable explanation is that both nations shared the same great-great-great-great grandparents (the decendants of Noah).

    Athiesm makes no sense to me. It’s beyond the scope of this response to go into that here, but I talk at length on my reasons for being a Christian on my personal blog.

  4. Good day Jeremy Robinson fans and readers!

    I just wanted to inform you that the mass market release of ANTARKTOS RISING is finally here! Producing the book was a breeze as it only required a few changes, and we expect it to become a NY Times Bestseller! Not only is it an exhilarating thrill ride, but it is on track to meet its fast-paced 2010 release date as a full-length animated film (along the lines of Ghost in the Shell)!

    To be a part of the excitement, the book can be purchased through any brick and mortar store, or our website (www.variancepublishing.com/antarktos.html). See you there!

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