Sometimes you want to be right there at the edge of an icy cliff staring death right in the face. But not really, just in your imagination. Here are some poetic, beautifully written and profound adventure and survival stories that will take you to dangerous places, without having to leave your sofa.
To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey
To the Bright Edge of the World is set in Alaska in 1885, a time of frontier exploration, prospecting and hardy homesteaders wanting to carve out an existence on the edge of the known world. Throughout the book is the theme of transformative liminality and exploring the gap between waking and sleep, tame and wild, imagined and real. The book chugs along at an enjoyable pace and the writing is crisp, engaging and beautifully evocative of time and place. Read more
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
Peter and Beatrice Leigh are devoutly evangelical Christians living in an imagined near future. There’s a colony of humans living on a faraway planet called Oasis. Peter is handpicked to convert the alien population of Oasis. The book strangely enough doesn’t read like science fiction, even though it’s set on another planet. It’s a novel that’s relevant to the human condition as War and Peace or Anna Karenina. The Book of Strange New Things is endlessly compelling and you won’t be able to put it down. Read more
The Ice Master by Jennifer Niven
This is the ultimate Arctic voyage novel, based on real events. The 1913 Canadian voyage on the Karluk was the worst planned arctic mission in history. Niven deftly and expertly crafts the narrative including how the crew manage to survive in the harsh polar winter, with plenty of evocative descriptions of the quality of the wind and the cracking forboding nature of the ice breaking around them, as the Karluk is stranded and floating on a wayward ice floe. In her hands, this historical account reads like a first-rate novel and thunders along at a cracking pace. I won’t give away any of the story here. This is really worth getting and reading if you want to envelope yourself in pure escapism of a tension-filled thriller in an inhospitable land, all from the warmth and comfort of your own sofa. Read more
She Rises by Kate Worsley
She Rises is an erotic, sea-faring adventure by debut novelist Kate Worsley. A word to the wise, the book is very raunchy and contains a lot of sex and violence. If that is not a deterrent to you (and is in fact an attraction) then dive right in, you will love it! Although this book contains a lot of the typical ‘yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum’ kinds of narrative tropes you would find in a sea-faring historical novel. This novel is anything but typical. The language is inventive, exhilarating and vivid. Read more
The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Garcia packs a punch with this short and dramatic novel about sailor Luis Alejandro Velasco who is the lone survivor of a shipwreck and is cast adrift in the vastness of the ocean.
This short novella is incredibly engaging and visceral in its grisly realism of what it would be like to suffer starvation and extreme thirst at sea. Also he weaves a powerful tale of the extreme loneliness and strange delusions that visit someone who is completely deprived of all sensory input.
I’ve never really gotten into survival stories before but this one is really amazing! I would highly recommend it. Read more
Island of Wings by Karin Altenberg
Island of Wings is a dazzling and evocative fictional story (that is loosely based on the life of) a Church of Scotland missionary Neil MacKenzie and his wife Lizzie who move to the remote island of Hirta in St Kilda. Set in the early 19th Century, it’s a riveting tale about how remote communities band together in the face of adversity and extreme environments. The two sassenachs (foreigners) on the island are trapped in their own isolation and have to navigate through the trials of their early marriage in an isolating, wild, superstitious and unpredictable landscape. Characters in this novel are expertly crafted and draw you in like a long lamplight in the gloaming. Despite the miseries and the hardships of the St Kildans, Neil and Lizzie, there is a warmth, beauty and magic to this novel. Read more
2 thoughts on “Six Exciting Frontier Novels Set at the Extreme Edges of Civilisation”
Hey I bought a copy of the ice master for my dad on your recommendation. He liked it a lot! Cheers
Wow that is awesome, I am so glad he is enjoying it, and that it was in his wheelhouse! 🙂