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Polaris: A Celebration of Polar Science
Review by Paul Haggerty
Robert Sawyer Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780889953727
Date: 13 February 2007 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

Polaris: A Celebration of Polar Science is a collection of nine short stories focusing on polar phenomenon. While most are set on earth, there's one on the moon, one on Mars, and one in Jupiter near-space, and even one around a far distant star. Some stories offer hope, others warnings, but all try to capture the majesty and alienness of life at the top (or bottom) of the world.

Attractions by Jane Carol Petrovich starts off the pack with a story of two teenagers on the cruise of a lifetime. Selected from all their peers to be student scientists headed for an arctic base for a life changing experience. And what an understatement that is. There are forces at work, both natural and otherwise. Some known, some not. And they'll all come together in the dark cold of the arctic.

In Polar Shift by Emily Mah, Amber, an eighteen year old girl, one of the few survivors of a previous disaster on the Jovian moon Ganymede, has to out think a truly astronomical polar disaster as the magnetic field of Jupiter starts to misbehave. An occurrence both difficult to lock down, and with the potential to kill everyone she knows.

Aptitude by Marcelle Debe tells the tale of Lily, a young girl way down on her luck, who's forced to journey to the arctic as opposed to going to jail. With any luck the experience will build character, or so the authorities hope. Needless to say, she's not one of those enthusiastic scientists that just can't wait to get out and do a good day's science. And so against her will, she plods along, doing what she's least until her core sample brings up an artifact. Something that can't possibly exist, but which none-the-less, has been slumbering beneath the ice for an eon. Now it's woken up, and Lilly is the lucky recipient of its attention.

Frozen Witness by L. Shelby is a bit of a mystery tale set on a strange planet around a distant star. An inspector and his local guide seek the truth behind the killing of one of the locals and his wife, and the disappearance of their daughter. But there's more mystery to be found that the simple slaying of a fur trapper and his family. The ice holds secrets that the locals would prefer not get out.

The Lost Land by Claire Eamer is a post apocalyptic tale of a young man out hunting game for his village. Less a story than a glimpse of the arctic regions following the change of climate, and how it affects the lives of those that remain. There are raiders, abandoned cities, and pockets of civilization that mean to withstand whatever nature and man can throw at them. And, of course, the youngsters for whom it is all completely normal.

Above the Pole by David DeGraff is the story of Dawn, a young girl trying to live a normal life of a teenager on the Moon, only with radiation storms and the threat of explosive decompression added to stress levels. How does one become an adult, except by acting like one? And how can adults know when to let the young have that chance?

Shining Field by Anna Paradox is a near future story of a young man trying to do what he can to reverse the effects of global climate change. But science is only the first step. Without people, science can do very little, and Walt needs to learn that to save people, you first have to accept that they exist. Because people have reasons of their own for helping or hindering, reasons that a young graduate student needs to factor into his own calculations.

Under Martian Ice by Stephen Baxter is a piece with the feeling of belonging to something larger. It's the internal musings of a scientist, stuck in the interminable winter of Mars, sitting on top of the most fantastic find in human history, and having to wait until spring to do anything about it, other than to reflect on the philosophy of Enrico Fermi; if aliens exist, where are they?

Swept Away by Sarah Niedoba, a seventh grade student from Ontario Canada, was the International Polar Year Student Writing Contest Winner. It's another tale of conflict between two cultures. The scientists, who are stationed at weather station in the Canadian Province of Nunavut, and the local Inuit, desperately trying to hold on to their way of life. While the scientists see themselves as trying to protect the locals from things they couldn't possibly understand, the locals see the scientists as a bunch of insular outsiders and just try and ignore them as best they can. But with climate change getting worse, and storms and disasters reaching every corner of the globe, even the distant north of Nunavut isn't going to be able to escape entirely. And when disaster looms, both sides of this cultural divide will need to attempt to actually understand the other.

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