During the Cold War, eight young men arrive in Greenland on a university expedition. Unwittingly, they become involved in a series of grotesque experiments. The body count rises, and when the survivors discover that they are due to be sacrificed "in the national interest" they decide not to co-operate.
An icefall on an Icelandic glacier -- formed where the gradient steepens and where the ice is broken up by a multitude of intersecting crevasses. Here the ice is very dirty -- probably because of volcanic eruptions occurring not very far away.
I have been making some substantial revisions to the text of "Acts of God" as part of the rebrand. Nobody else has noticed, but there are two references to individuals who were written out of the story in the last pre-publication editing session. So those have gone! And of course there were a few typos and bits of phraseology that could have been better. They have been corrected. And here and there the timeline was out of sync -- changes were needed there too.
But the most dramatic mistake was in relation to the Vietnam War! in various places I have mention of Jim Wagner's involvement in that war, and his reputation for mad risk-raking and casual brutality. Sure, the war was under way in 1962, having started in 1955. Initially the French bore the brunt of the military campaigns, but American ground troops were not involved in the conflict until 1965. Prior to that, the American military presence in South Vietnam consisted of several thousand "military advisers" and special forces units employed on covert operations and training work. Jim Wagner could have been in Vietnam around 1960 or 1961, but it is unlikely that somebody such as him would have been involved in combat.
The more likely scenario is that he was involved in the Korean War and saw brutal and even traumatic action there, before returning to the US to teach in a military academy after 1955. He would then have been senior enough and well placed for involvement in the NAPRE Icefall Zero project.........
Mads Mikkelsen as the hero stranded in the Arctic with a dying companion
"Arctic" makes a stir
The 2019 film called "Arctic", directed by Joe Penna and starring Mads Mikkelsen, made quite a stir at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It was filmed on location in Iceland in the middle of winter, over a period of just 19 days. It's a survival movie, not an all-action thriller, and the pace is slow -- in my view beautifully judged. As the director's first feature film, it's an impressive achievement. Mikkelsen is on screen throughout the film, and his performance is a tour de force. As a lonely man trying to survive against almost impossible odds, his portrayal could have consisted entirely of heroic stoicism and manly exertions, but it is full of subtlety -- as he tries to get a badly-injured and comatose female companion away from the wreck of her crashed helicopter and to a far-off research post where she can be attended to, if he can keep her alive.
There are abundant absurdities in the storyline, but the storytelling is so compelling that one is quite prepared to suspend belief......
The film will become a cult classic -- it's available on Netflix. It reminded me of a very old film called "To Light a Fire" starring Rod Steiger -- based on a Jack London story. Although the theme is miles away from that of "Acts of God" it's a brilliant evocation of one man's struggle against the winter cold in a landscape on a vast and intimidating scale -- and it will resonate with all who love the Arctic.
The comments from nearly all of the readers of this book is that it will make a fantastic film -- an Arctic thriller which will be just as exciting and a great deal more realistic than your average James Bond movie. And a great deal cheaper to make too.......
The background of the Cold War is just right-- there is a lot of interest in the 1960's at the moment, and the endless jostling for power of the Soviet Union and the USA. With the melting of the polar sea ice, the North-west and North-east passages are both seen to present new commercial opportunities -- and there is strategic importance too. This came to the fore when, quite recently, President Trump suggested he might like to buy Greenland........
In the Cold War accusations and counter-accusations of spying and skulduggery abounded, and it may be a surprise to many people to discover that Greenland was not just a quiet backwater but a place where a great deal was going on. On our 1962 expedition we caught glimpses of it (especially American activity) but never really appreciated what was going on.
There are some good films about groups of men and the dynamics between them -- esecially wartime fims where saboteurs are tasked with destroying enemy installations! So this one will be rather different -- sabotage is not the objective, but the consequence of what happens before. Eight men is probably too many for effective characterisation across the board, but of course three of the team are killed, leaving just five to work together as the story reaches its climax. And in a film, of course Joe Horton would have to be flagged up more prominently than in the book as the central figure with a mysterious past.
As we are probably all aware, "Acts of God" is not a terribly good title for a thriller -- it sounds as if it might be a theological treatise! The meaning of the phrase is obvious enough when you read the book -- but first impressions are hugely important. There are scores of other books out there with the same title. The title "Icefall" is much better, we think, and can have several meanings, all of which are fine for the storyline. Bit there are at least six other books out there with the same name -- several of them are novels. "Icefall Zero" sounds much better, and that is the revised working title I may well use for a new edition of the novel, to be published as an Ebook only, for the Kindle. In the story "Icefall Zero" is a good code name for the overall NAPRE project which causes the 8 lads such a lot of problems; they get caught up in the experiments of Icefall Zero One (the first phase of experiments), and another of the documents seen by the survivors towards the end of the book is referred to as Icefall Zero Two (the second phase of much more powerful and destructive experiments, which of course never happens because mayhem happens first........)
Stephen Hanna (22), Jesus College, leader and geomorphologist.
Gwyn Hughes (27), Cambridge Scott Polar Research Institute, glaciologist.
Rowland Linney (23), Magdalen College, marine biologist.
Griff Mortimer (30), Sheffield University, zoologist and medic.
Andrew Petherton (35), Brisbane, Australia, and Imperial College London, geologist.
Joseph Horton (28), Merton College, botanist.
Lars Knudsen (23), Copenhagen University, ecologist and photographer.
Peregrin Whiteside (24), St John’s College, ornithologist.
Jim Wagner: an ex-Army officer who is theoretically in charge of the "mining operation" at Himmelberg in the Werner Mountains. In reality, he is in charge of the experiments being conducted by the mysterious organization known as NAPRE. Is he a deranged megalomaniac, or is he just carrying out orders?
Art Ruckle: another ex-Americal army officer, now working as the helicopter pilot at Himmelberg, and Jim Wagner's right-hand man.
Harald Keppel: the young Danish Administrative Officer based at Sandvig who is more than a little concerned about the activities of NATO / US forces in the East Greenland fjords.
Alfred Jensen: Danish doctor working at the Himmelberg establishment who becomes increasingly concerned for the safety of the British expedition members.
Susanna Smith: daughter of an Oxford professor and girl-friend of Joe Horton. Acts as UK "liaison officer" and press officer for the expedition.
Pana Naukun: one of the village elders at Sandvig, who is also a shaman. His spirit bird is the Great Northern Diver, which is heard at intervals through the story.