Thursday, May 9, 2019

Book Reviews Reloaded: Zodiac Station

This article first appeared on East Niagara Post on July 14, 2015. It is repeated here as I work to put all my book reviews in one place. They will be posted on Thursdays or Fridays and only be altered from the original in that I will add publisher information and pages. Hopefully, by revisiting these reviews, other people might find a book they'd like to pick up for their own enjoyment.

Zodiac Station - Tom Harper
Harper Paperbacks
400 Pages

At the top of the world, the sun doesn’t set for six months, or it stays hidden for the other six months. In my review this week, there are secrets hidden in the shadows of the Midnight Sun. Zodiac Station by Tom Harper hides those secrets in the snows and ice of the Arctic for the reader to uncover.

As the icebreaker, Terra Nova, works in the frozen waters surrounding the North Pole, an exhausted and disoriented figure emerges from the cold. Thomas Anderson, scientist at Zodiac Station appears as the sole survivor of an explosion at the outpost.

Anderson had arrived only ten days earlier as a lab assistant to his former mentor, Martin Haggar. Unfortunately, that same day, Haggar is found dead at the bottom of a crevasse. Anderson relays to his rescuers the story of those ten days and of suspicion and paranoia infecting the base after news of the death of one of the scientists.

The Terra Nova continues its mission and ultimately finds a couple more survivors from Zodiac Station. Each of their memories of the last week and a half cast doubt on the story Anderson told the Coast Guard. While each of the tales is similar, there is enough difference to wonder exactly who is telling the truth. Was Haggar’s death a simple accident? Or was it murder to cover a conspiracy with the Russians?

Zodiac Station is a thrilling mystery set in isolation away from all civilization. There are only a handful of people who could have committed the heinous deed, all with their own motives, alibis, and secrets. The conclusion is as inescapable as the ice -- someone is guilty and it must be someone they know. At least it seems that way.

This book will keep you guessing until the end. You have to wonder if any of the survivors’ stories are true, or whether they are protecting their own scientific interests. Sometimes you even wonder if even they know what has happened around them. In the end, it all comes down to greed.

I kept turning the pages of this book trying to figure out for myself what the answers were. The conflicting stories will keep you wondering until the last page.  By the time I was finished, I realized that this book has a very loose connection to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Some of the scientists are the mobs trying to protect their interests, while a couple have created monsters in the name of greed. By the end you find out who and what the real monsters are in the snowy wastelands of the Arctic.

Tom Harper writes a great story of human struggles with equally great characters. Each of the characters introduced has his or her own distinct foible. They react drastically differently than the others even when reacting to the same situation. The alternating views of the events near the ice station give the reader a unique look into the solitude, loneliness, competitiveness, and compassion of all the inhabitants of Zodiac Station.

Zodiac Station by Tom Harper is an exciting read that will keep you riveted to the pages. Various threads will keep you stumbling toward an unexpected conclusion that begs the question, “What happens now?” Harper has written a dozen thrillers. I can tell you now, they are most certainly on my reading list.

The only ice that Craig Bacon likes is either in a glass or at a hockey rink. His monsters are all well-known.