Review of Elder Ice, by David Hambling

Elder Ice by David Hambling

Elder Ice by David Hambling

Norwood, South London, 1924
This may seem fanciful to the reader, but the impression was real to us at the
time. People living under civilized conditions, surrounded by Nature’s varied
forms of life and by all the familiar work of their own hands, may scarcely
realize how quickly the mind, influenced by the eyes, responds to the unusual
and weaves about it curious imaginings like the firelight fancies of our
childhood days.
Ernest Shackleton, South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914-1917 Expedition

This tale begins with the quote by Ernest Shackleton, who is an explorer that I
admire due to how he responded when his ship and men were trapped in ice in
Antarctica.  The story also involves one of my favorite regions for the Cthulhu
Mythos.   Antarctica is an area of the world has been mysterious in real life
and even more so, in the various tales of the Mythos.  In actuality, the story
takes place in Norwood, South London, in 1924 but the hidden cities and
mountains of the polar region have their effect on the story.

The protagonist is Harry Stubbs, the butcher’s boy and former boxer, now the
employee of a firm of solicitors as stated by the author.  His latest assignment
involves the debts that Ernest Shackleton left behind after his death and the
rumors of a treasure that he had found somewhere in the icy wastes.  He is
trying to locate information on whether or not such a treasure exists and if so,
where is it.  This assignment from his boss takes him on an adventure through
the darker side of London and to I think a convincing finale where he learns
more about the real nature of the world.

Harry Stubbs is an interesting character and the author presents him as a
well-defined protagonist with strengths and weaknesses.  The author has Harry
react believably to conflicts and situations that arise during the story.  As
the tale unravels, the reader will begin to detect more of the Mythos coming
into the story and its influence on Harry’s life.  The fights, encounters and
descriptions are well-written.  Overall, the author wrote an interesting and
captivating tale and as the book states there are more adventures of Harry
Stubbs forthcoming which should be interesting reading, as well.

I also liked how Ernest Shackleton was used in the story.  Often, authors will
take liberties with historical characters which can disrupt the enjoyment of the
story for me.  However, in the case of Shackleton, the author used the real life
characteristics and history to create a plausible character for a Mythos story.
In our world, Shackleton decided to attempt the crossing of Antarctica from sea
to sea, via the pole.  However, disaster struck this expedition when its ship
the Endurance became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the shore
parties could be landed. The real-life tale of the crew escaping by camping on
the sea ice until it disintegrated, then launching the lifeboats to reach
Elephant Island and ultimately the inhabited island of South Georgia, a stormy
ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles became Shackleton’s most famous exploit.  He
brought every one of his men back home but when he was home from his
expeditions, Shackleton’s life appeared to be unfulfilled and filled with a
longing for exploring.   This seems to have led him to search for quick ways to
richness and security by launching business ventures which failed to prosper.
Thus, he died heavily in debt which forced his family into dire situations.
This true life history is revealed slowly in the author’s tale which gives depth
to the story and allows the reader to see Shackleton for the person that he was.
The author knew that there was no need to add additional flourishes to a man
that was larger than life to begin with.

Overall, I enjoyed the unrevealing of the plot, the action, and the hidden
machinations that were going on in Harry’s life.  The supporting cast of allies
and enemies in the story broaden the tale and created a world that I would like
to read more of in the future.  Each of the individuals in the story were
developed well.  From the start, the story’s atmosphere was enjoyable with just
the correct amount of impending dread.  The author created a story that is a
good start for the beginning reader of the Mythos as well as for readers that
have read numerous works in this sub-genre.

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