PS Publishing / 129 pages / December 2001
When we worry about preservation of natural habitats, we flinch at the downing of every tree, the displacement of every wild creature. When images of human skeletons stare out from our television and mutely beg for help we angrily demand that there is enough food to feed all of us, if we only use the resources we have properly. But, what if the number of people on this planet continues to grow and we use all of our available farm land to its maximum potential? What will have to go then?
Those are some of the sobering questions proposed by Adam Roberts in his novella Park Polar. In his world of the future too many people means more land is needed to farm which means no room for those gorgeous animals we’ve all grown accustomed to protecting. Forget saving habitats. Forget the cute and cuddly critters. And you can certainly forget the not-so-lovable animals, unless they’re edible. Keeping any kind of animal means moving them to the few remaining places people don’t want to go and where crops just won’t grow. Welcome to Antarctica.
Roberts’ nightmare vision of the future has corporations firmly in control of the planet. The military exists to protect corporate employees from the bloodthirsty environmentalists, who, to most of the world, are the bad guys in this story. Into this tense situation comes Dr. Annalee McCollough to introduce her genetically-engineered kangaroos who will live out there lives on the rapidly changing South Pole. Is it just her imagination that everyone else on the team seems to be just waiting for her to turn her back before they stick in the knife? Something is very wrong at Park Polar, something it is worth her life to figure out.
Park Polar has the perfect setting for a chilling mystery and a fight for survival. Nowhere else on Earth could the characters be so completely isolated or in such a hostile environment, even if much of the environment is of their own making. Wild beasts abound in the wasteland, but none as dangerous as the ones they call their colleagues. This distinction echoes the overall theme of the book, where humans are, as always, their own worst enemies.
Pushed into the future and employing genetic manipulation that is years beyond us at this point, Roberts has created an end-of-the-world scenario that needs no bombs, plagues, or triffids to bring humanity to its knees. Simple refusal to face the realities of overpopulation, scarcity, destruction of habitat, and pollution can accomplish the same Alas, Babylon ending without all the rockets’ red glare.
Sustainability. Not such a scary word as many that await you in the pages of Park Polar. We’re used to taking a peek into the future. Sometimes it amazes us. Sometimes it depresses us. This time it should scare the hell out of all of us.