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KINDLE â Ice ñ In this haunting and surreal novel, the narrator and a man known as the warden search for an elusive girl in a frozen, seemingly post nuclear, apocalyptic landscape The country has been invaded and is being governed by a secret organization There is destruction everywhere great walls of ice overrun the world Together with the narrator, the reader is swept into a hallucinatory quest for this strange and fragile creature with albino hair Acclaimed upon itspublication as the best science fiction book of the year, this extraordinary and innovative novel has subsequently been recognized as a major work of literature in its own right Riveting, breathless, nightmarish prose, a stream of word horror so intense it s hard to fathom, equally hard to look away from The plot a globetrotting rescue before ice extinction sets in Or is it a chase Therein lies the rub everything has a double face, an ambiguity rooted in subjectivity and dreams, everything except the ice, which is ineluctable, a fact that no one can wish or dream away A book like this is incredibly difficult to pull off, skirting on that razor s edge between brill Riveting, breathless, nightmarish prose, a stream of word horror so intense it s hard to fathom, equally hard to look away from The plot a globetrotting rescue before ice extinction sets in Or is it a chase Therein lies the rub everything has a double face, an ambiguity rooted in subjectivity and dreams, everything except the ice, which is ineluctable, a fact that no one can wish or dream away A book like this is incredibly difficult to pull off, skirting on that razor s edge between brilliance and nonsense, but I found myself drawn in and never put off, in awe really of its power not just a verbal power but a moral one, an urgent description of who we humans are and what we have wrought, both upon and within ourselves and upon this planet As her fate, she accepted the world of ice, shining, shimmering, dead she resigned herself to the triumph of glaciers and the death of the world Her hair was a blizzard, a shimmering cascade of pale luminous moonlight She was fragile as if made of glass and crystal, built like a waif with pallid skin and bruised eyes She is an ice sculpture carved out of a glacier that is shattered and reassembled time and time again He needs her, desires her, craves her He wants to clench the slende As her fate, she accepted the world of ice, shining, shimmering, dead she resigned herself to the triumph of glaciers and the death of the world Her hair was a blizzard, a shimmering cascade of pale luminous moonlight She was fragile as if made of glass and crystal, built like a waif with pallid skin and bruised eyes She is an ice sculpture carved out of a glacier that is shattered and reassembled time and time again He needs her, desires her, craves her He wants to clench the slender bones of her wrist and grip the gaunt thrust of her hip He finds her as the world is ending She belongs to another, but then he realizes that she is discontentedWhile she was happy I had dissociated myself, been outside the situation Now I felt implicated, involved with her again HE The unreliable narrator of this tale is suffering from daytime apparitions and nighttime terrors The lurid concoctions of his agitated mind bleed certainty into the fantastical fooling, not only himself, but also this reader He has seized his own deceptions and sees them for what they are, but understanding and containing them are two very different thingsThe hallucination of one moment did not fit the reality of the next Ice is advancing across the Earth He has the means to save her or at least put off the inevitable He is chasing a wraith He loses her and finds her again only to have her turn to smoke in his hands He knows she is real though everything must be questioned She hates him She misses him She expects him to save her as she bashes him with her animosity When he dreams of her, she is deadI felt I had been defrauded I was the only person entitled to inflict wounds I leaned forward and touched her cold skin He has a rival A doppleganger The split half of himself who is assertive, brutal, and obsessively possessive, The Narrator refers to him as The Warden, but it is unclear exactly who he is I have lingering doubts about The Warden s identity Is he separate from The Narrator or is he merely just another personality that he jumps to when he needs to be someone else Someone who can control the girl The one who can remind her of who she isSystematic bullying when she was most vulnerable had distorted the structure of her personality, made a victim of her, to be destroyed, either by things or by human beings, people or fjords and forests it made no difference, in any case she could not escape The irreparable damage inflicted had long ago rendered her fate inevitable She is a victim, but he is starting to understand that he is a victim too In her presence, sometimes he becomes someone unacceptable Her very delicacy, her fracturability makes him want to hurt her, makes him need to hurt her Kindness is something he learns too late The world is so disturbing because he knows it comes from within his own mind Bruce Sterling termed the phrase slipstream to describe this type of writing long after this novel was published He wrotethis is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange the way that living in the twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibilityI knew after reading only a few pages that I was going to have to read this novel quickly, feverishly, if I had any chance of staying in the boat as I swirled without paddles through the mind of Anna Kavan I put Franz Kafka in the boat with me, but he too is a fragile soul, and became sea sick with the changing directions of this twisted plot There are Kafka moments, especially when The Narrator is dealing with a government bureaucracy that is becominganddetached as the world becomes smaller Anna Kavan was also a painter This is her self portrait.Anna Kavan, AKA Helen Emily Woods, AKA Helen Ferguson, suffered from depression and heroin addiction She was in and out of treatment centers her whole life She attempted suicide, but survived each attempt Many people believed that she passed away from an overdose in 1968, but she actually died from a heart attack She burned all of her correspondence and her diaries before she died This is truly unfortunate because I have a feeling that to most of us her diaries would be like trying to read Cumbric, but to a select few it would be like finding an extension of their own brain I can t help thinking The Girl in this story is Anna Kavan A fragile woman herself whom both men and women found to be attractive Ultimately, The Girl in the story accepts her fate, and I tend to think that Kavan reached the same conclusions with her own life She lived in seclusion Though venerated by many writers, most of her work was published after her death She was a lost girl who became a lost woman, incapable of escaping the ebb and flow of a mind that obviously saw the world differently Like The Narrator, the barrier that most of us have between real life and fanciful thoughts must have been breached for her Everything was real, and everything was imaginary The disparity between one or the other is a hair s difference This novel is bleak and beautiful Anna is so crafty and so lost yet, so desperate to be found I can already tell that I will never completely shake this novel off I will remember the starkness of the trees, the desperate searching, the walls of ice, the escaping to be repossessed, and the nameless characters who together might form one being.I purchased a first American hardcover edition of this book from Between the Covers Rare Books in New Jersey.You can findof my writing on my blog at Note This was just as good on the re read I was afraid the dream might turn out to be real Something in her demanded victimization and terror, so she corrupted my dreams, led me into dark places I had no wish to explore It was no longer clear to me which of us was the victim Perhaps we were victims of one another.Stunningly surreal and chilling, Anna Kavan s final novel, Ice, is a frightening plunge into the icy darkness of the human mind and heart Written with a fitful urgency, the reader Note This was just as good on the re read I was afraid the dream might turn out to be real Something in her demanded victimization and terror, so she corrupted my dreams, led me into dark places I had no wish to explore It was no longer clear to me which of us was the victim Perhaps we were victims of one another.Stunningly surreal and chilling, Anna Kavan s final novel, Ice, is a frightening plunge into the icy darkness of the human mind and heart Written with a fitful urgency, the reader flows on the glimmering prose across swirling imagery of desolate landscapes beset by an impending apocalypse, as the narrator continuously pursues a woman known only as the girl while struggling to anchor himself to the elusive, ever deteriorating reality Through spiraling hallucinations and indefinite descriptions, reality becomes nothing but a translucent veil giving shape to the real violent and grim truths that exist only in abstraction The blurring of reality and unreality that occurs gives these sinister abstractions a staging ground to take form within in order to explore the otherwise unspeakable darkness that leads people to make victims of one another.Nothing in Ice is ever certain or concrete Characters are not given names, and reality is only tasted in fleeting moments, but only as on might recall and incident from a dream Told through the disturbed mind of a narrator who, within the first 10 pages, openly admits to suffering from daytime hallucinations, the reader is forced to be led by the hand through this menacing novel by someone they cannot fully trust Poe s The Cask of Amontillado and his use of the unreliable narrator immediately come to mind through this narrators vague descriptions and elusive explanations, much like the intentionally unspecified thousand injuries in Poe There is, for instance his explanation of the girl Systematic bullying when she was most vulnerable had distorted the structure of her personality, made a victim of her, to be destroyed, either by things or by human beings It made no difference, in any case she could not escape Despite being alluded that it was a cruel, obdurate mother that inflicted such psychological injury, there is nothing to ground this to reality and justify his claims We have only his observations of the girl, much of which may be distorted and our own impression is further distorted as we observe her already believing it to be true and using our glimpses to justify our pre disposed conclusion instead of constructing our own The same goes for the slowly creeping apocalypse, a wall of ice marching in relentless order across the world, crushing, obliterating, destroying everything in their path , the consequence of constant world wars which lead to this new ice age However, the science behind the ice is only vaguely surmised,as if playing at a guess, and the reader is occasionally reminded that no reliable source of information existed Kavan uses repetition to its glorious, full potential, constantly reminding us of the vague premises to reinforce their believability and tricking us to perceive something formless as concrete.The elusive nature of the novel serves a secondary purpose beyond misdirection, as it allows the reader to experience the story and settings exactly as the narrator sees and comprehends them The landscapes and the narrative are co dependent metaphors of one another There were many small islands, some of which floated up and became clouds, while formations of cloud or mist descended and anchored themselves in the sea The white snowy landscape below, and above the canopy of misty white light, the effect of an oriental painting, nothing solid about it The town appeared to consist of ruins, collapsing on one another in shapeless disorder, a town of sandcastles, wrecked by the tide The narrators own fractured mind controls our sense of time and reality, and often, and without warning, we are sent into some unreality, some brief fantasy and then dropped back into the plot as if nothing had occurred The hallucination of one moment did not fit the reality of the next, our narrator reflects, I had a curious feeling that I was living on several planes simultaneously the overlapping was confusing As the novel progresses the seamless hallucination sequences aren t as obvious, and the novel suddenly drives forward at break neck pace taking us through spy dramas, courtroom scenes, war stories and other edge of your seat escape stories that we must ingest whole and wonder where the fantasy and reality may have blurred Tiny hints of obvious unreality present themselves occasionally, such as producing a foreign automatic weapon when one wasn t present earlier, however, the all we can truly do is hold on tight and enjoy the thrill ride Time itself is subject to the narrators own distorted mind, as events are mentioned that he once observed that could not have occurred within the boundaries of time presented in the scenes, and the positioning of the opening scenes is a bit cumbersome to place along the timeline The narrative almost feels cyclical at times There are many different methods of addressing these incongruities depending on how the reader interprets the novel, yet it would appear that nothing in the book aims towards one certain conclusion or meaning Instead, Kavan seems to write to give a wide interpretability because the real issues at play are very abstract and intangible, and it appears she would prefer to keep them that way in order to allot them their full force Ultimately, depriving the reader of lucidness and conclusiveness brings the uncomfortable, uncertain tone of the novel to life The surrealist qualities are elevated to near maddening proportions by taking any safe guards away from the reader and forcing them to grasp desperately at the intangibles.Brick by brick, Kavan builds only one certainty in this novel the destructive powers of man An insane impatience for death was driving mankind to a second suicide, even before the full effect of the first had been felt Each scene and setting is beleaguered by references to wars past and present, everywhere the ubiquitous ruins, decayed fortifications, evidences of a warlike bloodthirsty past , and the encroaching ice and it is always at the forefront of the mind that the world is in a perpetual state of violence This violence is said to be the cause of the icy apocalypse, a world collapsing both figuratively and literally due to mans collective death wish, the fatal impulse to self destruction Even the response to destruction isdestruction as wars rage on in increasing intensity to match coming end By making war we asserted the fact that we were alive and opposed the icy death creeping over the globe, we are told, the narrator not missing out on the obvious ironies He looks at the actions of those around him with disgust and dismay, saddened when encountering a violent brute of a man as being the kind of man who was wanted now and placing himself in league with a civilized, admirable man that is brutally murdered for no reason saying he was my sort of man, we were not like that rabble to distance himself from the bleak violence Yet, he knows he cannot escape it and is constantly drawn towards the fighting, joining the army for a time believing he was involved with the fate of the planet, I had to take an active part in whatever was going on The narrator s method of misdirection leads one to wonder where his loyalty and morality really lies.The war torn, doomed world is a mere backdrop for the evils that play out within arms reach of the narrator as he embarks on his crusade for the girl I was totally absorbed in that obsessional need, as for a lost, essential portion of my own being, he admits, Everything else in the world seemed immaterial The real heart of this novel is the relationship with the girl, and the narrator freely declares the world around him as questionable, as a mere veil of reality where he must conduct his search While the universal message of destruction andpowerful groups such as the warring armies victimizing one another is chilling, Kavan directs us to thepoignant and disturbing victimization one person can inflict upon another, especially one they love The interplay between the male characters of the husband, the warden, the narrator and their experiences with the girl show an alarming portrait of obsessive, sadistic possession The girl ceases to be considered an equal human and becomes nothingthan chattel It was clear that he regarded her as his property I considered that she belonged to me Between the two of us she was reduced to nothing her only function might have been to link us together These malignant pleasures of victimization are at the core of each scene, real or unreal, and illustrated through the vibrant imagery of each stark landscape which Kavan paints with her words All of this was happening, but with a quality of the unreal it was reality happening in quite a different way The surreal plotline becomes a place for her abstract ideas to flicker in and out of physical form but their malevolent nature is too poisonous to exist in glaring reality so reality must fold up and falter in order for them to truly rear their ugly heads Hallucinations occur so we can look them in the face and make sense out of non sense, horrific ideas are structured in a way to make them tangible enough to process The narrator himself cannot even fathom his own depravity, and suffers from unrealities, or projects them onto others because he cannot face the blinding truth Kavan presents a humanity that deserves the destruction that it receives, and this is the most horrific aspect of the novel It makes one wonder if they are blind to their own moral deformities, conditioned to accept them as normal because we are so able to rationalize and gloss over the troubling aspects of ourselves One must question if they are actually some damnable beast writhing in their own bile yet thinking it smells of roses and projecting onto society and those around them their own personal iniquity What else is truly alarming is the way the victims become conditioned to accept these monstrosities, playing right into the degredation and violence Kavan seems to admonish this behavior, creating a borderless world of victimization that damns both parties In the delirium of the dance, it was impossible to distinguish between the violent and the victims Anyway, distinction no longer mattered in a dance of death, where all dancers spun on the edge of nothingness It isn t so much an attack on the victim, as it is an attack on the whole of humanity, an attack on our own pathetic ways and weak wills that lead us towards being either the victim or the aggressor.Anna Kavan was known for these startling perspectives on humanity Her own life is a fascinating story Born Helen Woods in what was assumed to be Cannes in 1901, she changed her name to Anna Kavan while institutionalized after a nervous breakdown following the end of her second marriage The name Anna Kavan, the protagonist of her 1930 novel Let Me Alone, brought with it a new personality and writing style Beyond the mental illnesses, she was a lifelong heroin addict She died in 1968 of heart failure not long after this novel was published, but before dying she burnt all her diaries, correspondence and other links into her private life to ensure that she would become one of the world s best kept secrets This fascinating woman had an incredible knack for prose and a sharp, disturbing insight into human nature For readers interested in further insight into Kavan herself, they will be pleased to know that many of her books contain thinly fictionalized biographical elements Books like Asylum Piece cover her mental states and time spent in the asylum, Sleep Has His House hints at her sorrowful childhood, and her addiction to heroin and her open disgust of humanity is unapologetically broadcast in her short story collection Julia and the Bazooka.This novel is one of the most unique and engrossing literary events I have encountered To give it a genre would cheapen the novel, as it both is and isn t science fiction and horror, being a work of literature as elusive as its own narrative The prose will surround and penetrate your heart much like the wall of ice in the novel as it builds the gorgeously surreal images to dazzle your mind The subject matter, and the tone, is bleak and chilling, and exposes a violently disturbing vision of humanity, yet it is a book that you want to hug tightly as you race through the streets yelling to everyone that they should read it As menacing as a nightmare, yet as soothing as a pleasant daydream, this book scratches an itch that few other books beyond McCarthy s The Road has been able to touch 4.5 5Gracias Hermana for this wonderful Christmas gift I was oppressed by the sense of universal strangeness, by the chill of approaching catastrophe, the menace of ruins suspended above and also by the enormity of what had been done, the weight of collective guilt A frightful crime had been committed, against nature, against the universe, against life By rejecting life, man had destroyed the immemorial order, destroyed the world now everything was about to crash down in ruins The girl, forced since childhood into a victim s patter of thought and behavior , is here further victimized by her lack of name Although woman would be aage appropriate term for her, the usage of girl is delivered with an extremely negative connotation that implies her as weak, a fragile and innocent glass girl with no will of her own Her physical appearance, pale and frail, is also used to highlight her weak and innocent nature, making the narrators own personal indescribable pleasure from seeing her suffer all thesadistic despite his own assertion that I disapproved of my own callousness, but there it was Various factors had combined to produce it, though they were not extenuating circumstances It would appear the narrator is trying to be upfront this admission coming right at the beginning of the novel to gloss over his sadism, but reflection on his word choices reveals the residue of the disturbing truths he is attempting to misdirect the reader from view spoiler It is debatable, but there is strong evidence to indicate that the warden and the narrator are one and the same person There are moments of half clarity when the narrator recognizes his own denial and notices the inconsistencies in his fantasy I seemed to be looking at my own reflexion sic Suddenly I was entangled in utmost confusion about which of us was which, We were like halves of one being, joined in some mysterious symbiosis I fought to retain my identity The husband may very well be the same character as well In the introduction, Christopher Priest asserts that the warden and the husband are the same man, but says nothing of the narrator The multiple interpretative quality of this book is one of its strongest aspects hide spoiler Christopher Priest s introduction discussed that many critics have unsuccessfully attempted to view the ice as a metaphor for Anna Kavan s own heroin addiction This overly self conscious footnote servesas an excuse for awkwardly placing the biographical information at the end of the review The novel is best served by being examined on its own, as the details of the authors life are so engrossing that they easily lead towards the disservice of the Intentional Fallacy, as Priest discusses with the heroin as ice metaphor That said, other novels of hers, particularly Asylum Piece or Sleep Has His House, have been interpreted as being highly autobiographical The ice, like much of the symbolism, seems to be reflective of many different ideas, but a corner stone to it s meaning may be view spoiler the silent and white aspect of it that the narrator frequently mentions It seems it is a fresh start, a blank, pure whiteness to cover up all the ugly and violent aspects of humanity and himself He often speaks of how it will end all wars and engulf the earth in silence, a silence he so wishes for because his own actions are unspeakable He is drowning in his and the worlds evils and wishes for them to be purified in their own destruction hide spoiler I was reminded of this book several times while reading Lolita Perhaps it is that both books consist of a narrator seducing us into their rationality to make us oversee the abuse and power trip they take over their helpless female victims, utilizing the victimization to keep them in a cage of their psychological torment A major difference lies in that Humbert admits to the reader that he is a pentapod monster , whereas in Ice it isn t until the end that the narrator truly accepts his monstrous nature That said, this book is also akin to Javier Marias Tomorrow in the Battle, Think on Me where the narrator is deceiving both the reader and themselves though Marias narrator is not under the effects of drug usage The control and power over a female victim is an ugly, disturbing thing, and Kavan presents it as so, letting the floor drop out from under the reader at just the right moment so we can all swing from the noose of guilt and depravity This book is not subtle, and packs a hell of a punch If I lived forever, I would read this book 200 times, each timeslowly, bathing in every sentence and unearthing all the glorious subtext which must lie beneath its icebergs As it is, with so many books and so little time, I still feel compelled to immediately dive back in.Ice is the only easy read that s also a hard read The writing is poetic, but simple and crisp Never hard to understand Actions are clear, the imagery ever present It reads, in many ways, like a movie a dream movie If I lived forever, I would read this book 200 times, each timeslowly, bathing in every sentence and unearthing all the glorious subtext which must lie beneath its icebergs As it is, with so many books and so little time, I still feel compelled to immediately dive back in.Ice is the only easy read that s also a hard read The writing is poetic, but simple and crisp Never hard to understand Actions are clear, the imagery ever present It reads, in many ways, like a movie a dream movie The characters are all nameless shadows swirling around in a context that shape shifts as often as it remains constant We see their movements and glimpse their motivations, but they remain enigmas.I often regret picking up novels that describe themselves as a fever dream This inevitably means a poorly edited potpourri of sketches that lack clarity Ice, however, is literally, actually, like a dream The dream ends you wake up and the afterimages stick around long enough to make you fantasize of returning to that whirlwind storyline, to put the pieces together, and experience the magic onceThis is exactly how I feel having finished the book I didn t always comprehend why or how everything was happening, but I felt it all and I want to feel it again Next time, deeper