New York City
Miles beneath the layer of ice that covered Earth in the New Ice Age of 2300 AD, men survive in the subterranean cities they built to save themselves as the ice crept with killing cold over all living things. For three hundred years no one has seen the surface or communicated with any other city. Until now. Now the few scientific instruments that remain seem to indicate that the Ice Age may be ending; outside temperatures are reaching a level that may make life possible — though not easy — on the outside.
But life in the underground cities is comfortable, and those few who are brave enough to be curious about the unknown frozen world above are suspect; troublemakers. A small party of these
troublemakers, led by Dr. Raymond Barnes, with a few scientists and others who think they might prefer freedom to safety, has been allowed to take the long-unused elevator up through the ice to the outside. But they go more as exiles than as a scientific expedition; they are not expected — and may not be allowed — to return.
In his Introduction to the Ace reissue of 1980, Silverberg says that this story was inspired by the harsh winter he spent in New York in 1962-63. As he spent many hours shoveling his
fine grand driveway free of snow, he imagined a world once again in the grip of an Ice Age. How would people cope? Could civilization survive? So he proposed writing a book for the young readers' division of Holt, Rinehart & Winston. As it turned out, he did the actual writing for the book during the summer of 1963, which was unusually hot, but he conveyed the arctic conditions well. The story moves along nicely, with some social commentary which sets it above many other young reader titles (not really a
juvenile but not really an adult book either). The underground cities are very claustrophobic, the primitive surface-dwellers are reasonably portrayed, and the science is sensible. One thing I couldn't help noticing, however, is that there is not a single female character who so much as speaks a line of dialog. Not that it's entirely
men doing men things. In fact, two of the main characters (Dr Barnes and his son Jim) are refreshingly lacking in macho posturing, preferring to reason or talk their way out of confrontation when possible.
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