Adam Roberts. Park Polar. PS Publishing, 2003.

A bit of a disappointment, more so by being read shortly after the Paul Di Filippo novella from PS Publishing. But perhaps that is a bit unfair – comparing a fairly new storyteller with one with a much different pedigree.

The story starts out with an interesting premise: relatively near-future, with global warming leading to large expenses of land being used for soya and wheat crops, and the human population squeezed into the temperate zones. The Antartic is being used as a testing ground for genmod cattle, with a genmod green algae covering the ice and supplying their nourishment.

Arriving at a commercial research station, the female protagonist, McCullough finds herself part of a team which includes three male scientists, two female ones (one with a genmod beard!), and three guards toting weapons. No sooner have the characters been introduced then all manner of things happens. A lesbian tryste between McCullough and the bearded ‘Natty’ takes place (call me old fashioned, but I do prefer my sapphic sexual fantasies not to feature facial hair on the participants!). Then the three guards are gunned down and we are pitched into a situation straight out of ‘The Thing’. Are eco-terrorists to blame, or is it one of the scientific crew?

We then have a fairly routine thriller, in which all the characters evidence enough strange behaviour for them to be the murderer. The three women attempt to escape by ski-sled, but one is mauled by a genmod lion (beasts of prey having been introduced to keep the livestock numbers down).

The protagonist (who really can’t be seen as a heroine) brains the scientist who she thinks is the murderer (he isn’t). Another scientist then attempts to kill her (he isn’t the killer either). But the bearded lady kills him.

We are told in a pell-mell recap of who did what to whom and why, by the bearded lady, for it is she who was the murderer. The beard should have given the game away – never trust a woman with a beard.

A bit of a head-scratcher to be honest, as the story is some way below the standard of other published by PS Publishing.

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