Reviewed by Timothy Niedermann
This entertaining thriller has all the expected ingredients: a beautiful (and very smart) heroine, calculating villains, international conflicts, and fast-paced suspense. It has one other thing: a glimpse of a very possible global crisis for the real world in the near future. Most of us have grown up thinking of the Arctic as a distant, forbidding, and inhospitable place, full of ice year-round, and completely unsuitable for almost all human activity. What little industrial activity there is consists of oil and gas drilling off the northern shores of four of the five countries that border the arctic: the U.S., Canada, Russia, and Norway (the exception being Denmark/Greenland).
Climate change is altering that. As the ice pack thins and disappears for much of the year, there is increasing potential for access to the Arctic’s deep-sea resources that are far from land, and beyond the 200 nautical mile limit to a nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Author Tatrallyay poses a scenario that is all too possible: Russia decides to ignore EEZ limit and claims most of the Arctic, including the North Pole itself, as its sovereign territory. This causes concern not only for the nations bordering the Arctic but also for China, which also has its eyes on the region's resources.
A good deal of the action in Arctic Meltdown takes place in Greenland. The main character, Hanne Kristensen, is a scientist for the Danish government, studying the effect of climate change on the glaciers of northern Greenland. Professionally, she is one of the top people in her field, and she interacts with a variety of men whose motives for being interested in the Arctic range from preservation to exploitation. Her blonde good looks add spice (and more) to some of their relationships. Lachlan (Lock) McTierney is an Australian scientist looking for rare earth deposits off the Greenland Coast. Richard Simpson is a Canadian diplomat charged with negotiating issues of Canada’s jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic. Ron Hall is the U.S. National Security Advisor. And Pavel Laptov is a prominent Russian explorer with a deep love of the Arctic. Laptov, who has been tapped to be Minister of the Arctic by Russian President Andrei Gusanov, is spearheading Moscow's annexation effort. And then there is the Green Liberation Front, which wants to preserve the Arctic from all exploitation.
The disparate and often conflicting motivations of each of these characters and the interests they represent drive the plot. The author takes pains to educate the reader by presenting in detail the geographical basis of each country’s claim over parts of the Arctic, in particular, Russia’s and Canada’s. He also describes the international legal framework governing the Arctic, discussing both its strengths and weaknesses. So, as much as it is a compelling thriller, Arctic Meltdown is also a primer on the far-reaching dangers of war and environmental disaster.
Tatrallray's message could not be more timely. Climate change in the Arctic is happening. How we handle it may be crucial to our survival everywhere.
Arctic Meltdown is published by Black Opal Books.