3 out of 4 stars
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Ice Rock: A Fable by Rod Beecham is an eerie tale about piracy, the ocean depths and the human condition. Reinhard von Saldern leads a pirate crew of mostly ex-military men, but von Saldern’s crew is unique: they have access to the Sea Spider, a submarine-type vehicle that is capable of walking the ocean floor at depths no man has ever explored. At first, von Saldern and his crew are content taking on typical missions for pay, but when von Saldern has a hunch about a long lost city deep in the ocean’s depth, everything for the crew changes.
The most enjoyable part of Ice Rock is the ominous tone the novel takes on from the very beginning. Set in Germany during the 1930s, the storyline embodies a time when most men had seen war, and all people had been touched by war, whether directly or indirectly. The characters in this novel clearly show a lack of faith, and though their decisions might seem strange in today’s world, they make perfect sense given their individual histories. Further, the majority of the novel takes place in the depths of the unexplored ocean and on Ice Rock, the remote and treacherous location of von Saldern’s base. These settings play a pivotal role in upping the sinister tone found throughout Ice Rock. The author masterfully set the tone of the novel and kept the feeling going throughout its pages.
Moreover, there is a lot of interesting material in this relatively short book. At less than 240 pages, so many themes are explored in Ice Rock. Though at first glance, this book appears to be a period piece about adventure, there is a lot of depth to the tale of von Saldern and his crew. Good and evil, lost faith, exploring the unknown, and the human will to survive are just some of the major themes touched upon in this book. Similarly, the characters are all complex and face their own demons related to their pasts and the roles they play in von Saldern’s expedition. I only wish more narrative had been dedicated to exploring these characters and the associated themes. Though much is discussed between the lines in this novel, there was plenty of room for expansion, especially with the multitude of characters the author introduced.
Although I enjoyed many aspects of this book, there were a few places where it could have been improved. For instance, the book is well written and error free; however, Beecham’s writing tends to be verbose, which can become tedious to read at times. Similarly, the many characters included in the plot were difficult to differentiate between until close to the end. Lastly, the novel is told from the third person omniscient perspective. However, due to the short nature of the novel, the lack of a clear point of view made some important plot points rather lackluster. The oscillating point of view meant none of the characters was fully fleshed-out, and it was difficult to really care about any of their outcomes.
Despite my reservations about certain aspects of the novel, Ice Rock was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I rate this novel 3 out of 4 stars, deducting one star for my aforementioned reservations. Readers who enjoy detailed writing, ominous storytelling, and historical fiction with a mild sci-fi twist will thoroughly enjoy Beecham’s novel.
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