112,375 words, 368 pages, 7 hrs and 30 mins to read.
Published by Scribner.
3.50 out of 5 on Goodreads
Our rating: 1.5 out of 5
You’re the worst of them: you have their strengths, but none of their weaknesses.”
― Tom Rob Smith, Cold People
What is Cold People About?
The world has fallen, humanity has handed over the planet to a mysterious force. They were given thirty days to reach Antarctica. No negotiations, no explanations. Would you be able to live on one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet?
Cold People follows a few characters, mainly focusing on Liza, an American, to begin with but as it unfolds more are introduced.
My Thoughts on Cold People
I am going to do this review a little differently to our normal reviews and not begin with what I liked or disliked about Cold People, what I felt worked and what I felt didn’t. Instead it is all going to be put together because some of my points fit into both categories.
The story had such a great and imaginative premise. The idea that the human race had only thirty days to get to Antarctica, an inhospitable part of the world, ordered by some mysterious alien life force. We are chucked right into the deep end. So as we are led to believe we get to see some epic adventure, the trials and challenges that they have to face to make it in the short time period. But this part is so briefly glossed over, we get snippets of some of the key challenges, but it is rushed through to get us to Antarctica in time. This isn’t what Cold People is about. So maybe it is about learning to adapt and survive in one of the harshest climates and parts of the world? No, instead we skip forward twenty years instead… This story is about the… Cold People. Genetically modified humans. And that is as much detail as I am going to go into to avoid any spoilers. Well other than, the mysterious alien life force is never really explained. They are almost seemingly forgotten about… With my expectations pretty high from the beginning, it felt like such a great waste of opportunity.
So, while the story had such a great promise, it just moves on giving you such whiplash when Tom Rob Smith moves on to the next section of what Cold People is about. We only really get more information of what happened during the exciting parts through flashbacks, and this is not more than just a synopsis of what was involved, none of the real gritty or exciting parts that I was really hoping for by this point. The pacing feels rushed so much that when we actually settle down, it feels like nothing is happening, it’s just slowed right down that it becomes almost boring. So while I say this, I do think that Cold People would really have benefited from being broken down into a trilogy. Give us a chance to feel that sense of adventure, to give us all the answers, to just settle everything down and not deal everything out in half hearted flashbacks.
Book 1 – Getting to Antarctica.
Book 2 – Adapting to survive on Antarctica
Book 3 – Rise of the Cold People
And throughout the trilogy, we could learn more of what this alien force was. Why they did what they did. I don’t mind if the human race is trapped on Antarctica indefinitely, but just give us some more information about who they are and what they want. I’m happy enough if we are trapped where we are and the real story is about the Cold People. Just don’t leave me feeling like they are ignored. It almost felt like the perfectly incorrect amount of context for a satisfying story.
Having said that, I found the science that was in Cold People to feel so believable. It felt so well thought out and researched that I believed that everything that happened could happen. The scientist characters, however, are introduced so late into Cold People, that it just felt like it was too little too late. We are then expected to care about these scientists when their whole story is told in such quick succession from their Exodus (their survival story of getting to Antarctica) and learning to survive there that it just feels like a nobody character tagged on the end. It feels rushed so that we can just get to their purpose and not actually enjoy what they have to tell or show us.
So, overall, I gave this book a pretty low score because as you can see, there was a lot about this that I thought didn’t work. I honestly think this book in itself should have been broken down into a trilogy, it would have helped with the pacing and cut out a lot of this back and forth, which really did nothing to add to the story, and only added to the disorientating way that Cold People was told. I think the story would have been more coherent if it was told in a more linear fashion. Now this is clearly a writing choice from Tom Rob Smith, normally being a historical writer, but when it came to this, I think he should have changed his tack and we would have got a more satisfying story by the end of it.
While the story did have great promise to begin with, it just felt like a let down after a let down. There was too much going on and yet nothing at all. I ended this with more questions than answers and was left fully unsatisfied by the ending, even with a vague feeling of there could be more to this book than being just a standalone. But being a standalone, this failed to give me the sense of a full and complete story, with MAJOR storylines seemingly left ignored. What was the point in having there be some kind of alien life to then just ignore the fact that they are there? It’s just supposed to be accepted that this is a thing, move on? No thank you.
But, I give it that half a point because this did begin by having a great premise to begin with (which did quickly lose my interest), and it felt thoroughly researched (probably Tom Rob Smith’s attention to detail as a historical author) that the effort felt there. It just wasn’t executed or handled as well as I think it could have been.