As you may know from reading past posts, I’ve developed a small obsession with Antarctic explorers lately. So when I was doing some writing at the library and my eye caught the word Antarctica blazing (freezing?) out of the fiction section, I had to investigate. I found Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083 by Andrea White.
The story is set in 2083, where five fourteen-year-olds are on a reality TV show recreating Captain Scott’s historic trek to the South Pole. But in this dystopian future, reality TV has reached a whole new level of realism–where no one interferes, even when that means people die. And when you’re sending kids to recreate a journey where five men did die…well, that guarantees some good adventure programming, right?
They had me at Scott.
I admit I was in it for the Antarctic explorers side of things, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a fascinating dystopian society too. In this future, the government has gone broke. Since they can’t afford anything, like scientific research and schools, they’ve decided that the way to keep the people complacent and uncomplaining is to provide better entertainment, and keep them watching television all the time.
It’s a disturbingly insightful idea. Over 97 million people voted in the most popular American Idol vote. About 106 million people voted in the 2004 presidential elections. Sure, this would be more impressive if those numbers were reversed…but that’s not a big gap when you’re talking about two things as different as a TV show, and deciding the leader of the country.
So between looking ahead to a disturbing potential future and looking back to a fascinating past, you’ve got something good here.
About that past–my particular Antarctic obsession (if you’ll let me go a little poetic about it) swirls directly around the bundled and slightly frosted (but still charming) figure of Captain Lawrence “Titus” Oates. I think Andrea White’s interest in Antarctica would shift left a little to bring fellow explorer Birdie Bowers into more direct focus. Titus, sadly, does not come up by name until 160-odd pages in. But I respect her interest and bring this up not as a criticism and only as a comment on my personal preferences. I’m sure Birdie was very nice too.
Ultimately I think the concept of this was more interesting than any individual characters, although the five kids (plus one not on the mission) were all good enough characters in their way. But it’s mostly the ideas in this book that make it work, rather than the individuals, or even the plot. The individuals are fine, and it’s a good plot, but it’s more about the ideas. It’s a thought-provoking book. It might make you think about your television, or about reality TV.
It also makes me wonder if I’m going to be able to hunt down any more novels set in Antarctica.
Author’s site: http://www.survivingantarctica.com/