Our Lady of the Ice

Our Lady of the Ice

by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Setting: Antarctica
Genres: Fiction / Science Fiction / General
Published on October 25, 2016
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover Source: Library

In Argentine Antarctica, Eliana Gomez is the only female PI in Hope City—a domed colony dependent on electricity (and maintenance robots) for heat, light, and survival in the icy deserts of the continent. At the center is an old amusement park—now home only to the androids once programmed to entertain—but Hope City’s days as a tourist destination are long over. Now the City produces atomic power for the mainland while local factions agitate for independence and a local mobster, Ignacio Cabrera, runs a brisk black market trade in illegally imported food.

Eliana doesn’t care about politics. She doesn’t even care much that her boyfriend, Diego, works as muscle for Cabrera. She just wants to save enough money to escape Hope City. But when an aristocrat hires Eliana to protect an explosive personal secret, Eliana finds herself caught up in the political tensions threatening to tear Hope City apart. In the clash of backstabbing politicians, violent freedom fighters, a gangster who will stop at nothing to protect his interests, and a newly sentient robot underclass intent on a very different independence, Eliana finds her job coming into deadly conflict with Diego’s—just as the electricity keeping Hope City from freezing begins to fail...

It is winter in Antarctica. The last boat that can carry humans has left for the mainland. Now the citizens of Hope City settle in to ride out the season. However, there are problems. Blackouts are starting. That’s potentially fatal in this harsh environment. No one can figure out the cause.

Eliana is a private investigator. She has never been outside of Hope City. She wants to move to the mainland but that takes enough money for an exit visa and a ticket on a boat. She’s hoping to save enough to make it by spring.

Diego is her boyfriend. He works for the local crime boss. He says he’s just a low level errand runner. Eliana is suspicious but she doesn’t want to think about that too much. She’s afraid of what she will find out.

Lady Luna is an aristocrat with her own private dome. She hires Eliana for enough money to fund most of her escape plan for a seemingly simple job. But as Eliana gets pulled into Lady Luna’s orbit she finds out more about the inner workings of Hope City than she wanted to know.

Androids were programmed to work in the amusement park. Some are still around. Several have gained sentience and they have plans of their own for Hope City.

Will Hope City as it currently exists survive the winter?

This book combines gangsters and androids and steampunk and noir. It is an alternate timeline where the amusement park was built in the 1890s and the present is the mid-twentieth century.

I particularly loved the androids. The main ones, Sofia and Luciano, were a sex worker and a hotel worker respectively. They were programmed to serve humans. They are both working very hard to evolve past that need to defer to human’s wishes. That manifests in each of them very differently. Sofia is enraged by the fact that she can be forced to do things for humans against her will. Luciano genuinely likes some humans but he isn’t sure that he can trust that that isn’t just a part of his programming.

I picked this up because what would be better for my South of the Equator challenge than going all the way to Antarctica? (The author is American though.) It also worked well for reading during sci-fi month. It was a slow read for me. I was enjoying it but I found that I would only read a chapter or so at a time before putting it down for a bit. That changed over the last 150 pages or so that I read at one sitting as everything started to come together.