Read a NetGalley eARC
Content warning: starvation, grief, gore, dead dogs
A polar expedition to the South Pole goes terribly and having a stowaway on board isn’t even one of the myriad problems plaguing the Fortitude. Jonathan Morgan is trans and grieving his brothers who he lost in the great war. Eager to take their place on the adventure to Antarctica, he hides out on the ship. Discovery isn’t his only problem. Things start going downhill very quickly as the ghosts from his past become everyone else’s terror as well.
Comparing this book to the show, The Terror, and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger with more queers is honestly the most perfect description.
An interview with author Ally Wilkes will be posted on UK release day, January 25, 2022.
Jonathan Morgan is my angry son with one of my favorite archetypes, and that is brotherhood as the basis of one’s gender. His grief and his feelings for his brothers are so layered, but mesh so well with the baser terror of trying to survive the Antarctic winter. It leads to character growth that doesn’t get undermined by the struggle against the elements and the endless darkness.
Wilkes has such a knack for atmosphere. It’s clear that much research was done for the physical sensations and the degradation of both supplies and mental state. The cold is palpable and the disorientation via sounds is absolutely frightening. The readers’ sense of grounding deteriorates quickly as the days wear on, with more uncertainty than the day that came before it.
The crew work so well as a unit of character, a representation of humanity against the wilderness. Everyone on the crew is haunted by something, be it past failures, their own secrets, or literal lost loved ones. The ghosts are some of the best parts of this novel. I love how grief is a literal ghostly presence rather than just a metaphor for mental collapse. It heightens the tension, speeding up the pace of the book despite how stuck the characters are in their icy prisons.
Terrifying, claustrophobic, despite this work taking place on the world’s largest expanse of ice.