The Dark Gravity Sequence: The Arctic Code by Matthew J. Kirby, 324 pp, RL 4
Matthew J. Kirby is the author of Icefall, a tense mystery set in the Viking Age on an isolated, barren fjord in a small shelter that sits beneath a looming glacier. Danger comes from within and without, but the narrator Solveig, the middle child of the king, is a believable hero with a compelling voice. I loved Icefall so much I couldn't wait to read a new book from Kirby that revisited a frozen world. The Arctic Code, the first book in the Dark Gravity Sequence, is set in a future world that was plunged into a new Ice Age some ten years earlier. An an ice sheet, miles thick, has been moving south from the Arctic at a rate of 2.7 feet a day in the United States. A mass migration south has resulted in overcrowding in cities like Phoenix, once arid, now experiencing sub-zero days. I especially appreciated the irony of refugee Canadians and Americans hoping for a chance to cross the border into Mexico, where their president promises billions in aid to America. On top of this, G.E.T., the Global Energy Trust, is profiting off an almost monopolistic control of the earth's dwindling energy resources and the study of where to find more. There is even a conspiracy theory that the UN has a plan called the "Preservation Protocol" that will determine which countries get saved in the event of mass-ice-sheet destruction.
However, this is a kid's book and there are more moments of excitement and danger than irony, as there should be. Eleanor Perry is the twelve-year old risk-taking daughter of Dr. Samantha Perry. Hating the politics of G.E.T., Dr. Perry works for one of the few, smaller companies researching energy resources and has been in the Arctic for months. A single parent, (whenever Eleanor does something seemingly crazy, Dr. Perry attributes this quality to the Donor, a person they know nothing about, but one who I suspect might be part of later books in this sequence...) Dr. Perry's brother Jack is taking care of Eleanor as best he can. But, when Dr. Perry is reported lost on an ice sheet and Eleanor gets a series of cryptic messages and files from Dr. Perry on her Sync, a prototype communication device that the two share, with instructions to show this to NO ONE, Eleanor makes a snap decision to head north.
Making one seemingly bad, dangerous choice after another, Eleanor makes her way to Barrow, Alaska, where her mother's team of scientists has joined forces with G.E.T. Kirby is a gifted writer when it comes to capturing the suffocating, frigid feeling of being in an Arctic environment and, even though I read The Arctic Code while sitting on the beach, I was shivering. The mysteries and betrayals deepen in the Arctic and Eleanor finds herself in one amazing situation after another, with Aaron Skinner, the climatologist who initially proved that the Ice Age was approaching, and much quicker than anticipated, now the C.E.O. of G.E.T., gunning for her. Kirby brings two amazing elements into the plot once Eleanor makes it to Alaska, one of which is too good to divulge here. With the help of Finn and Julian, sons of Dr. Powers, Dr, Perry's colleague, Eleanor discovers that a rogue planet has entered our solar system and thrown off Earth's orbit, resulting in the drastic weather. Somehow, this has been kept secret from most of humanity, but that's not the worst discovery Eleanor makes. In the heart of an ice cavern, Eleanor finds the Concentrator, a massive device that is sapping the "telluric current" from Earth's ley lines and sending it to the rogue planet. Who built the Concentrator and where are they now? That is a question for the next book in the sequence...
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