Cold People (by Tom Rob Smith)

Preview copy supplied by Netgalley. Publish date 1st March 2023

Tom Rob Smith what have you done? Readers may be familiar with his previous books. For example, his first novel, Child 44, published in early 2008, was inspired by the true-life case of Andrei Chikatilo, who committed a series of child murders in Soviet Russia. It was awarded the 2008 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller of the year.  This was followed by Smith’s sequel to Child 44, and the final novel in the trilogy, Agent 6, was published in 2011. All novels that I thoroughly enjoyed.  A standalone novel followed called The Farm (2014) and this is a psychological thriller novel set in London and Sweden.

So now Tom Rob Smith throws a curved ball and his forthcoming novel is “Cold People”. It is like a modern-day War of the Worlds. As a teenager, I lapped up H G Wells, Arthur C Clarke, and Asimov. My tastes have changed (it seems) and this book is for sci-fi fanatics I guess. I hated it.

The book switched from one time-frame to another. Starting 2000 years ago with an adventurer arriving in a totally inhospitable land called the Antarctic. We then jump to a merchant based in the Antarctic who plundered the Far East for riches about 200 years ago. He would like to retire back to the UK but he is persuaded to stay to exploit the Antarctic.

Then another time switch to present day Portugal, Here we meet a family on holiday in Lisbon. The daughter is attracted to a Portuguese man who is plying a trade guiding tourists around on his boat. Whilst enjoying his company some form of Aliens take over Earth. They rush back to the hotel to find the daughter’s parents. An ultimatum is broadcast and all earthlings must move to the Antarctic by a certain date.  Hope you are still with me!

The tourists and the guide’s family set off in the family’s vessel. It is packed with friends. Bizarrely they manage to survive but soon realize they will not get to the Antarctic by the deadline. Somehow the younger members manage to transfer to an oil tanker after a port stop that is miraculously refitted in an instant to cater to thousands of migrants. Unbelievably – forget any logistics – they arrive in the Antarctic by the deadline. On the northern tip of the Antarctic the “Drake’s Passage” is crammed with vessels from liners, and tankers to small boats. The main characters have to decide whether they can stay on the tanker or try to land on the inhospitable continent. The ultimatum says they must be on the Antarctic so they cajole others to move on land. Very fortunate as on ultimatum day a wall descends between land and sea.

Another time frame shift and 20 years later 3 cities have survived – you really need to suspend any logic on how they have survived. In the meantime, scientists with the Cold People Project have developed a being that is super tough, strong and has adapted to the severe conditions of the Antarctic.

Sorry, but my patience ran out at this point! Not at all believable, and you need a warp-speed imagination to live with this unlikely scenario. I hate castigating an author’s hard work but please go back to writing thrillers! This a personal opinion and suspect others will love it! Good luck Rob.

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