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Big Ice    by Christopher Bonn Jonnes order for
Big Ice
by Christopher Bonn Jonnes
Order:  USA  Can
PublishAmerica, 2003 (2003)

* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Polar ice researcher Seth Peterson likes his job with the National Ice Center and finds his work rewarding as well as fascinating. In fact, Seth is working on research that may well lead to the ability to predict the formation of icebergs.

However, his life is complicated by a phobia that Seth doesn't even realize he has (he simply thinks he's a coward). Seth has Social Avoidance Disorder, which makes his job, and even normal living, a near nightmare. He is coping - barely - when much to his dismay, his rescue of a car accident victim propels him into the limelight. The media become even more interested in him when he flees their scrutiny. Now known as 'The Shy Samaritan', he becomes the object of a media frenzy.

This intensifies when Seth tries to help in another crisis. On this occasion, a colleague is assassinated while giving a presentation of Seth's research. (Much to Seth's relief, the injuries he suffered in a bungled burglary of his apartment provide a convenient excuse to avoid giving the presentation himself.) The media pursue him with even greater avidity.

It gradually dawns on Seth that these incidents are not due to chance. For some reason, an unknown and sinister group badly wants his research. Pursued by gun-toting goons (both male and female), Seth goes on the run, anxious to prevent further injury to his colleagues as well as to preserve his own life. In the course of this life-and-death chase, he also deals with the personal disaster caused by his phobia.

The author provides an entertaining, fast-paced story with very likeable characters. There is a nice mix of personal complications and an external dilemma foisted upon the protagonist. Jonnes takes pot-shots at various aspects of our society that merit satire, with a wry humour that rarely misses its mark. Everything flows very smoothly, and I found this a fast read - almost too much so, as I like to savour a book I'm enjoying.

The information about Seth's researches is fascinating as well. Jonnes challenges the accepted view that human activities are most to blame for current climatic warming. (Earth has seen several cycles of warming and ice ages.) He has also chosen to make his villains eco-terrorists who espouse this view. Seth's foiling of the well-armed villains is a bit of a stretch, but not totally implausible. All in all, Big Ice is a diverting read.

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