Sunday, May 12, 2024

Book Review: A Haunting in the Arctic

A Haunting in the Arctic 
by C.J. Cooke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this in two halves (essentially) because I was very busy for about 3 weeks in April and barely read anything at all. I think that affected part of enjoyment. This is the kind of book that would be best read in a weekend or over a short period of time. Thus what was maybe a 3 star read for me, I’m upgrading to 4 stars. I think there is a lot of great pieces to The Haunting in the Arctic in terms of the spooky atmosphere, the simulated isolation, and thus desperation for attention that both the reader and our characters are feeling. I also loved the use of the selkie fable/myth and its integration into the core story.
Overall the book is worth reading…

But here’s where things get tough… in order for me to really talk about this book and my feelings there is a good chance you will figure out the twist… so fair warning from here forward there is a possibility of SPOILERS.

Again, possible spoilers below.

As I have discussed many times before when it comes to cold settings authors constantly get the details incorrect. Whether the overall effect of cold, snow, ice, etc on the body or how your brain starts to slow and mania or insanity sets in.
For me there was only two outcomes for this book:
1) I either knew the twist within the first 100 pages, or
2) Cooke was doing a terrible job of handling the bitterly cold conditions on the ship in the 2023 timeline.

At one point hear the end I had convinced myself I had the twist wrong and therefore posted a rant about how poorly written or understood cold is, and how disappointed I was in Cooke making such a rookie mistake. Then, lo and behold, a couple pages later the twist is revealed. And I was super annoyed. Held off to the last 10 pages of the book, so transparent (if you know what should have happened after certain events) that it was comical to me, and yet I had convinced myself out of it and that Cooke was just a poor fact checker on biology.

So where does this leave me?
I think it leaves me in a spot where a reread would be good (not right away) as now that I know the outcome I will not be bothered by numerous details like the first time. Perhaps I might be able to appreciate more of the atmosphere, timeline linking, and character processing of trauma.
Ultimately it leaves me with a very unsure feeling towards this book. Yes it’s good, yes lots of people (non-cold climate folks for sure) will likely not pick up the hints to the final twist, and yes the writing is superb. I’m almost sad that I know the cold so well that I knew what could or could not be ‘happening’ at times.

Overall I’d say if this book interests you then pick it up. It’s not bad, it’s quite well written and intriguing. For myself, I will definitely still look forward to the other Cooke novels on my shelf and hope that my knowledge of a particular subject doesn’t sink me like it did here. I will also keep it on my print shelf to possibly reread, and because the book cover itself is gorgeous.

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