The Thing Itself (2015) by Adam Roberts

How to begin to review this book?

‘Start here: how do we know there’s anything out there?’
‘What – in space?’
‘No: outside our own brains. […] We see things, and think we’re seeing things out there. We hear things, likewise. […] But maybe all that is a lie.’ (p.18)

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The Thing Itself is a science fiction thriller about two men working for SETI on an Antarctic research base in the 1980s. It tells the fascinating story of what happens to them one long south-polar night, and the repercussions of this event. It does this through the intertextual lens of Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’, the Fermi Paradox, a dash of James Joyce, some H.G. Wells, a sliver of John Carpenter, and more. (A lot more references than I was able to pick out on a first reading.) Continue reading

The Snow (2004) by Adam Roberts

“The snow started falling on September 6th, […] And at the beginning people were happy.” (p.1)

 

691923Imagine if it started snowing in September and didn’t stop. As the snow piled up deeper and deeper, how would the World governments react? How long would it take before society collapsed? Adam Roberts explores this scenario in his 2004 novel The Snow, a book which starts well but seems to lose its way around halfway through.

Roberts sets his story in present-day London. The main character is Tira, a Londoner who initially reacts the same way as everybody else. She stays at home waiting for it to stop. But when it doesn’t, she decides to go looking for help rather than waiting for help to find her. From here we follow her journey as she attempts to survive the snow. Continue reading