”Iceapelago” is a new word for a new world. In fact, according to the Irish novelist Peter Brennan who coined the term and then wrote a cli-fi novel with that word as the title — “Iceapelago”– it describes a country -– in this case the island of Ireland in the distant future –- with ice covered seas and lands, multiple small islands and tundra winter conditions.
So yes, his novel “Iceapelago” is a climate change thriller: a new sub-genre of cli-fi.
Brennan tells this blog: “Iceapelago is formed after tsunamis destroyed the Irish landscape. Rising sea levels and winter ice conditions force the humans who survive to adapt. The first migrants are Artic foxes. These dramatic events are related through the experiences of Norwegian scientists, an Irish inventor, academics and researchers from several countries, the crew of a research vessel, mountain guides, pilots, hill walkers and tourists, and Prime Ministers. All witness or play a part in the creation of Iceapelago.”
In the novel, there are three separate but interconnected story lines take place at some time in the distant future.
”You will visit many locations: the Masters at Augusta, the British embassy in Dublin, Faro de Fuencaliente, Pico Bejenado, Roque de los Muchachos, Galway City, Ilulissat, Tasiilaq, the Johan Petersen Glacier, the Eriador Seamount, Oslo, Merrion Street (Dublin), Barlovento, the QM2 and Cobh,” Brennan, 62, says
Although his novel is fiction, and “Iceapelago” is an author’s imagination gone wild, Brennan hopes his story will never become fact.
Dr Brennan has a good background for writing this kind of novel. He tells me:
“Having written many research reports on climate change and the low carbon economy and three non-fiction books, I assumed the task of writing a novel on a topic I was familiar with would be easy. I was wrong. But I did get somethings right initially. In the first phase of writing, intermittently over a year or so, I did my best to create the main characters, their environments and to weave the elements of a dramatic plot. But this was all done in a bit of a vacuum as I had not experienced the places where the action takes place.”
”I visited the first location, La Palma, the least known of the Canary Islands, with my wife Margaret in January 2019. It is a hillwalker’s paradise. We walked all the trails and visited the villages and sites that feature in Iceapelago. We witnessed the skylines, volcanic dykes, lava paths, and changing weather patterns. In the book, Spanish research students doing summer vacation work discover the first signs of volcanic activity in an area hitherto dormant. This triggers an international response. The 8km ridge of the Caldera de Taburiente that dominates the centre of the island explodes with dire consequences, not just for the local population.”
The second storyline takes place in Greenland, says Brennan, where scientists working in the Summit Station – 3,000 metres atop the ice sheet – undertake tests to determine the flow of surface meltwater as it cascades through the glacier’s crevasses and sub-surface lakes to sea level. An innovative tracking device is used. They find evidence of the rapid pace of melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet: a tipping point and a direct threat to the nations of the North Atlantic.
”My research trip in July 2019 involved taking eight flights, including two by helicopter. If La Palma’s scenery was stunning, Greenland’s vast and changing landscape defies description. I flew over the top of the Ice Sheet and photographed seas of melting ice. I took several escorted tours around the glacier graveyard close to Ilulissat on the west coast and inside the Arctic Circle. I also travelled to Tasiilaq on the east coast: a small isolated inuit community also surrounded by melting glaciers. It was unseasonably warm at 18 degrees. I rate the Arctic much higher as a place to visit in terms of scenery and raw beauty than the Antarctic that I had the good fortune to experience in 2016.”
”I could not travel to the Eriador Seamount at the edge of Ireland’s Continental Shelf, the scene of the third story, but thanks to the Marine Institute I spent several hours on their research vessel talking about the ship’s routines, procedures and its marine research activity. Based in Galway Harbour, the RV Celtic Explorer is a state-of-the-art resource. I hope the huge commitment of its crew comes across in the chapters of Iceapelago that cover the disruption of the Gulf Stream and the impact of its collapse on the countries that benefit from its moderating influence on our Irish weather.”
”I spent four months writing up and integrating the three story lines and developing the characters and their narrative. I also re-wrote every chapter; re-cast and polished the dialogue; and dropped lots of background information that got in the way of readers’ understanding of the characters and the plot itself.”
”This book was my first work of fiction. It was inspired by my long interest over twenty years in climate change policy and climate science. While doing my day job, I am writing the sequel: Iceapelago – tentatively titled ”The Aftermath.”
“I have two ambitions for ‘Iceapelago’, Brennan concluded. “That readers will better appreciate the value of nature and the threats to the global environment. Secondly, that someone will see its potential as a film. No harm in being ambitious!
So to sum up the book’s story arc:
Young Spanish researchers detect seismic tremors on the dormant Caldera de Taburiente on La Palma (Canary Islands).
Scientists atop the Greenland Ice Sheet seek to measure the flow of meltwater.
A manned submersible off Ireland’s Continental Shelf finds early signs of underground volcanic activity.
The stories are interconnected.
One thread binds them all.