Review: Iron Winter / Author: Stephen Baxter / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
The Northland series has been a bit of a roller coaster ride so far, and its conclusion, Iron Winter, is very much the ending the series deserves, though sadly, not one that the readers expect or perhaps will enjoy, as it is disappointingly hollow. Despite the promising start of the first book (the excellent Stone Spring), the subsequent books in the series fail to deliver the sort of fascinating changes and shifts that one expects from alternate history tales. The Northland books are inspired by the notion that the Earth’s climate behaves in more extreme ways at key points in the planet’s geological history. This leads to different nations being formed, different cultures becoming dominant and so on. It’s an excellent premise that gets caught up in itself, failing to deliver any memorable moments.
The thrust of Iron Winter is the dawn of a new ice age, which hits during a time when mankind is just beginning to gain a greater understanding of the world. It’s a tale of wise men desperate to be heard, and one of the problems is that though this makes for a nice environmental parable, it doesn’t make for a fun read. It is a very grim story about the end of the world, filled with complicated changes to a world that is familiar enough to be confusing. This is one of Baxter’s driest and darkest books yet, and it is not helped that it is very hard to feel anything for the characters.
If you’re looking for a heavily science driven novel with a strong environmental overtone, then take a look at Baxter’s book Flood, which is superb. Iron Winter, however, is just not as engaging as it needs to be, suffering from too much setting and not enough people.