Book #60

Icebreaker by Steven William Hannah

Inside their walls, the people are safe from exposure to the unnamed horror that broke the world long ago; but now Bear, the last scientist in Forgehead, takes a case that threatens to throw that safety into question. Someone has been terminally exposed to the phenomenon, despite never having ventured outside the walls. This has only happened once before - to Bear's father.

With the safety of Forgehead in question, and an opportunity to finally discover what happened to his father, Bear must leave the safety of the walls to unravel the mysteries left behind by the pre-cataclysm world; a task that will require him to join the Interloper Initiative, the team who crew the gigantic Crawler landships, the only vehicles that can roam the world outside the walls in relative safety. "Icebreaker" is the first entry in the Interloper Trilogy, a tale of horror and science charting the last days of a dying world, and humanity's endeavour to survive.

Hannah plunges us immediately into a terrifying dystopia - the world has been overtaken by a phenomenon with no name, a poorly understood and impossibly dangerous curiosity which brings death and ruin to any destination it reaches.

Since the cataclysm, our world has learned how to stave off the phenomenon, building walls, issuing flamethrowers, instructing citizens to isolate themselves with sensory equipment covering their eyes and ears in order to prevent anything reaching their brains and corrupting them. It’s a horrific image; lying at home unable to see or hear what’s coming inside - is it someone entering to give you the all clear, or is it something much more harrowing?

Our protagonist, Bear, has devoted his life to researching the phenomenon, risking everything to come up close to the exposed and attempt to understand how this thing works and how it can be stopped. When such a case arises at the beginning of the novel, we discover the victim has never ventured outside of the walls. For Bear, solving the mystery of how exposure could happen within the safety of his home town becomes more and more paramount as Hannah takes us on a bloody and insane journey into the heart of evil.

This is incredibly well crafted. The world Hannah has created, whilst terrifying and unsettling, is impressive in its span and efficiency. I was fascinated by the processes implemented by these people in order to ward off this unknown terror. I felt challenged; would I be able to handle and survive these measures, this abject fear which runs through the community daily? 

Characterisation was also perfectly pointed, with Hannah dribbling backstories and information to us almost tantalisingly. Discovering the origins of the characters, their motivations and longings, was slow but perfectly rendered.

A truly excellent addition to dystopian fantasy, and a wonderful first third of a trilogy. I’d encourage any fans of the genre to get into this immediately.