In the arctic sun - by Rowan Hill
I first stumbled upon Rowan’s writing in her short “They eat people, you know?” in the anthology “Slice of paradise” from Dark lit press, and was impressed enough to shoot off a message to her saying how much I liked the story shortly after finishing it. I am a pretty open book – if I like something I say it, and I say it straight away, while the impression lasts – and in the conversation following, Rowan let slip that her debut novel was coming out in about two weeks. So obviously – I pre-ordered it and rubbed my hands in excited glee – it felt like a fantastic new-author-for-me-discovery – I was ahead of the game.
Now obviously, Rowan’s debut sold like hotcakes – I wasn’t the only one expecting great things from her, and rightly so. I am obviously going to track down the rest of Rowan’s shorts in the various anthologies she has appeared in. I don’t obsess, but I do collect what I like.
So “In the arctic sun” has a great premise – set in the Alaskan Arctic wilderness, rowan’s MC Sarah is a woman that is a writer searching for inspiration, and isolation, to write. Having just had a fight with her husband, the couple decides to split for a couple of weeks to gain perspective. Sarah is on medication to help her sleep – the nonstop sun in her environment hampers her ability to think lucidly and her lack of sleep can only be combatted by drugs and alcohol. Not the best mix, but she has it under control.
A new neighbor enters the story, and simultaneously an accident at the local drilling rig (an oil pipeline driller) provides the background to this creature feature. Something is out there, in the ice and snow, and it decides to use Sarah’s house as its den.
I’m not telling you anymore. This is just a blast. The first 50% of the book is set up, we get the elements of animals on the loose nearby, her husband’s violence, Sarah’s insomnia, a new neighbor who is first seen watching Sarah through binoculars, sounds of an animal in her house, etc. Rowan’s language is both poetic and engaging, the flow happily carries you through those 70 odd pages wondering where the threat is going to come from, and make no mistake, the threat is going to come. Rowan weaves tension and the effects of sleep deprivation masterfully. What is real and what is imagined?
The remaining 50% - well – hell, you can’t turn the pages quick enough. I might very well have had more paper cuts from this book than any other this year, you can’t get through it quickly enough. The violence, when it arrives, is wonderful, brutal, bleak, raw in its savagery. The creature is realistic in its mannerisms – exactly the kind of nightmare you could imagine. The seeds Rowan planted of mental instability and unreliable narrator play in a constant battle in your mind with the reality Sarah sees – You are constantly aware that if Sarah is not seeing the truth, her actions can be seen in a totally different – and equally terrifying – light.
How to describe In the Arctic sun? A breathless, adrenaline-fueled psychotic slaughterhouse romp in the unending, unforgiving sun of the arctic wasteland of Alaska, with a showdown ending with an ancient monster that will be the basis of your nightmares for weeks to come.
I loved it. I couldn’t get enough.
5 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s
You can buy "In the arctic sun" from your local Amazon, click on the appropriate link below:
You can visit Rowan's website, HERE.
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