Book Review:  Cold People by Tom Rob Smith

I want to clarify at the start that Cold People is a lot of fun to read, albeit in the same way that Marvel Comics are fun. There is very little verisimilitude; you have to dial up your “willing suspension of disbelief” to the extreme. Most of what takes place is not explained in any sort of logical manner; it is simply taken for granted, the same way you read a comic and you assume the aliens and monsters are a natural part of the story because… Well, because they are there. The plot is a series of “what if?” questions taken to one extreme after another. Warning: spoilers ahead.

The story begins with an alien invasion. Gigantic spaceships suddenly appear in Earth’s atmosphere, and a warning message is broadcast over the internet, television, radio, and every other form of media in all human languages. Humans have thirty days to move off all habitable continents and resettle on Antarctica. The alien superiority is so overwhelming that resistance is impossible. A massive, chaotic exodus commences. It is a plot device, of course, to get all the survivors to Antarctica, where most of the story takes place. I kept wondering as I read, though, why the aliens would make such an unusual request. If they wanted humans out of the way, why not just kill them all? They end up murdering all but a few anyway. And if the purpose was not eradication but relocation, why not give them a more livable spot somewhere such as Australia or a half of the Americas? The cruelty of the evacuation order makes no sense. For some reason the aliens transport the greatest monuments of humanity such as the pyramids of Giza, the Forbidden City from Beijing, the Palace of Versailles, the Statue of Liberty, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and many others to a plateau in the middle of the Antarctic continent, but no explanation is given as to why they might have done this – and that makes no sense either. I couldn’t put my mind around beings that were so advanced technologically but completely lacking in compassion and mercy. As far as I am concerned, evolution is not complete unless the emotions evolve and become better as well. Humans – at least normal, well-adjusted, sane humans – do their best to tend to the other, simpler life forms on our planet. And yet these invaders, who seem to be so superior, are in fact demented, abhorrent forms of life, using their overwhelming power and intellect to torture and slaughter less advanced species. Okay, whatever. That’s the premise we’re dealing with.

Many of the humans who manage to make it to Antarctica on time die during the first winter. The others set up a few cities and make the best of their new situation. However, some of the most brilliant leaders and scientists, instead of working on improving conditions for the sad, sorry multitudes, decide to invest whatever technical resources they have left into creating a race of super beings – the Cold People – who will be impervious to the continent’s harsh, freezing weather and be able to work as sort of glorified servants for humankind. That’s strike two for the common folk, because these gigantic, armor-plated, powerful monsters (who are all fully created in makeshift labs in just twenty years and are somehow telepathic as well) have no intention of assisting ordinary people in any way. Instead, before a truce is ultimately reached, they initiate a second genocide, their emotions seemingly as atrophied as the alien conquerors that have banished everyone to this remote, forbidding land. The poor humans get it from both sides, first from evil sadistic aliens from outer space, and then from their own murderous creations.

The overriding premise of the story is that the universe is a cruel, heartless place and that with great power comes great evil. Some of the human protagonists have loving, sacrificial relationships, but love and self-sacrifice seem to count for little in such a forbidding universe. The survivors of the alien-imposed exodus and the war with the mutated Cold People are relegated to a few small cities on a single isolated peninsula, and they still face the threat of the mutant army attacking them again in the future.

As I said, despite the leaps of credibility the author asks you to take, this is a fun read. I suppose that’s all it was ever meant to be. But don’t hold your breath for a happy ending.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s