Something deadly and mysterious stalks the members of an isolated polar expedition in this haunting and spellbinding historical horror novel, perfect for fans of Dan Simmons’s The Terror and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger.
In the wake of the First World War, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Antarctic expedition, determined to find his rightful place in the world of men. Aboard the expeditionary ship of his hero, the world-famous explorer James “Australis” Randall, Jonathan may live as his true self—and true gender—and have the adventures he has always been denied. But not all is smooth sailing: the war casts its long shadow over them all, and grief, guilt, and mistrust skulk among the explorers.
When disaster strikes in Antarctica’s frozen Weddell Sea, the men must take to the land and overwinter somewhere which immediately seems both eerie and wrong; a place not marked on any of their part-drawn maps of the vast white continent. Now completely isolated, Randall’s expedition has no ability to contact the outside world. And no one is coming to rescue them.
In the freezing darkness of the Polar night, where the aurora creeps across the sky, something terrible has been waiting to lure them out into its deadly landscape…
As the harsh Antarctic winter descends, this supernatural force will prey on their deepest desires and deepest fears to pick them off one by one. It is up to Jonathan to overcome his own ghosts before he and the expedition are utterly destroyed.
Wilkes's debut distills 50 years of 19th-century adventure fiction think Moby Dick, Treasure Island, Heart of Darkness through the cataclysm of WWI, yielding a gripping narrative that is at once explorer's yarn, trans man's coming-of-age story, and a tale of a survivor grappling with horrors that defy definition. Jonathan Morgan's two older brothers have become war casualties, and his method of dealing with grief is to convince their friend Harry to help him stow away on an expedition to Antarctica the adventure his brothers had dreamed of before the war. Jonathan is soon discovered and earns acceptance among a grizzled crew scarred by ice and battle unlike Tarlington, the expedition's ostracized scientist whose credentials and conscientious objector status are equally derided. It's a quarter of the way through before the ice closes in and the tone definitively shifts from gritty seafaring challenges to a desperate struggle with demons that blur the line between the supernatural and the subconscious. Wilkes takes on quite a lot, and not every thread is taut; Harry's class consciousness, for example, is adequately described but remains unconvincing. The story's heart, however, beats strongly throughout. Fans of historical horror will be enthralled. Agent: Oli Munson, AM Heath.