cover image Cold Earth

Cold Earth

Sarah Moss, Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $14.95 paper (288p) ISBN 9781582435794

Moss's eerie, sophisticated debut novel drops readers into the middle of Greenland's Arctic summer during an archeological dig to unearth traces of lost Viking settlements. A team of three men and three women from the United States and Europe – each with their own dramatic histories – settles into uneasy domesticity, worried about a looming pandemic that threatens to annihilate the world. Meanwhile, ghosts of the ruins haunt neurotic Englishwoman Nina (already the least qualified of the six), making her companions even edgier. To further complicate matters, the group's remote location cripples communication with the outside world, and a fatal mistake by the team leader makes the archeologists realize how hopelessly ill-equipped they are for the looming winter. Moss uses letters written by her characters to their loved ones as an intimate first-person narrative device; while this works well in sections, the form feels contrived at times. Nevertheless, the correspondence amplifies their struggle and endears them to the reader. While the fear of a worldwide pandemic may have diminished since the writing of this book, Cold Earth still serves as a chilling reminder of the fragility of human existence. (Apr.)