How to describe Reversal?
Take a Clive Cussler sea thriller, add a Lee Child Reacher murder mystery, combine it with a creepy supernatural Dean Koontz story, shove in a little bit of Stephen King’s The Stand along with March of the Penguins, and you’ll be close. Jennifer Ellis has pulled off a remarkable book that keeps you guessing at every turn with a mixture of sci-fi, supernatural, and good ol’ fashioned thriller.
I first became familiar with Ellis when I read the time travel anthology Synchronic. Her story “The River” was a fascinating and out-of-the-box time travel tale. Lucky for us, Ellis took the same tack when it came to her first entry into the Apocalypse Weird universe. It would have been easy for her to destroy a major city like L.A. or New York, or even something more familiar to any reader, but instead she took on the North Pole.
No Santa Claus here, but instead we are talking about the magnetic north pole. Instead of zombies or autoimmune diseases, Ellis supplies her apocalypse with pole reversal, solar flares, super volcanoes and methane-venting craters. The death toll is probably lower than any of the other AW books (except for the penguins. RIP penguins…) but the carnage is implied as the reversal of the magnetic pole causes GPS systems to go haywire, and the environmental disasters involved could potentially devastate the entire planet for years to come.
Our hero is Sasha Wood, a researcher at the International Polar Research Station on Ellesmere Island. She’s there with a handful of other scientists, including the station caretaker Soren Anderson. The trouble starts on the second day of the story when everyone wakes up blind (a common event to each of the AW books). Ellis really paints the picture of the Blindness really well, amping up the tension in the first few chapters and never letting it slide.
And that was one of the things I liked best about Reversal. The book never gives you much rest. There are a few “down” times, but even in those moments, Ellis tosses in bits of important information that relate to the causes of the event, Soren’s complicated history, or more and more craziness that is bound to happen next.
All throughout the book, Sasha and Soren have to deal with problems unique to a polar expedition. Instead of taking a car on the highway, they must travel via snowmobiles. Instead of having dogs for pets, the dogs are important survival tools. The accuracy to real polar research is amazing and a nice touch.
I really can’t say enough about Reversal and I hope Ellis gets a chance to play around in her polar playground once again.