cold fiction for the hot summer?
June 10, 2008 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Two of my favorite books for summer are "Winter's Tale" by Mark Helprin and "Smilla's Sense of Snow" by Peter Hoeg; I'd like suggestions for other (preferably hefty) novels with complex/absorbing story lines and wintry settings or themes to help me stay sane 'til September. Got an ice book to recommend?
posted by taz to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
You'd probably like David Masiel's 2182 kHz.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:51 AM on June 10, 2008

Jon Hassler's Dean's List
posted by unixrat at 7:53 AM on June 10, 2008

Actually, Hassler's Rookery Blues, then Dean's List.
posted by unixrat at 7:55 AM on June 10, 2008

Tolstoy's War and Peace. I haven't read the new Pevear/Volokhonsky translation, but it's a good gamble.
posted by Prospero at 8:01 AM on June 10, 2008

Not fiction, but two books that are good chilly reads and may work just fine.

1. This Cold Heaven by Gretel Erlich [my review]
2. A Schoolteacher in Old Alaska: The Story of Hannah Breece by Jane Jacobs [my review]
posted by jessamyn at 8:02 AM on June 10, 2008

Orhan Pamuk's Snow.
posted by barjo at 8:07 AM on June 10, 2008

It's not too hefty but it is chilly, and brilliant: A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
posted by jodic at 8:07 AM on June 10, 2008

2nding "War and Peace"
posted by grumblebee at 8:09 AM on June 10, 2008

Philip Pullman's "Northern Light Trilogy" is mostly pretty frosty. It is certainly compelling.
posted by rongorongo at 8:17 AM on June 10, 2008

Probably not genres you like, but....

Helliconia Winter is a classic Science Fiction book, with a pretty complicated plot. It's set on a planet with a very long year though, so you'd probably want to read Helliconia Spring and Helliconia Summer too.

The Worst Journey in the World is non-fiction, but a classic first-person account of an Antarctic expedition.

Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a pretty decent alternate history / detective novel set in an Alaska settled by Jewish refugees).

And, um, I seem to recall Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean was a pretty decent thriller.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:21 AM on June 10, 2008

Icefields by Thomas Wharton.
posted by valleys at 8:26 AM on June 10, 2008

Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctica.
posted by rtha at 8:27 AM on June 10, 2008

Icelander by Dustin Long.
posted by misteraitch at 8:30 AM on June 10, 2008

Also if you have possibly somehow not read Dan Brown's Deception Point, it's an icy page-turner.
posted by jessamyn at 8:40 AM on June 10, 2008

I think you'd like "The Shipping News" by E. Annie Proulx.
posted by h00py at 8:55 AM on June 10, 2008

Dr Zhivago
posted by sagwalla at 9:03 AM on June 10, 2008

Snow falling on Cedars. Unless you've seen the movie. Actually, strike that-- even if you've seen the movie.
posted by dersins at 9:08 AM on June 10, 2008

The Terror, by Dan Simmons.
posted by dfan at 9:16 AM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Neither hefty nor complex, but pretty foreign: Maroo of the Winter Caves
posted by mdonley at 9:17 AM on June 10, 2008

Dan Simmons' The Terror -- a novel about an 1840s Arctic expedition that (of course) goes Horribly, Horribly Wrong. It's hefty!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:18 AM on June 10, 2008 [2 favorites]

George R.R. Martin's fantasy-novels-for-people-who-hate-fantasy-novels, the Song of Ice and Fire series (start here), take place in a kingdom where winter goes on for decades. So. You know. And are they hefty? Oh my.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:26 AM on June 10, 2008

While Laxness's Under the Glacier takes part in summer, the frequent mentions and discussions of the glacier should chill you down. As a bonus, it's damn funny. My American girlfriend often breaks out laughing while reading it. All of Laxness is pretty damn wintry (or anything else set in Iceland, for that matter, 101 Reykjavik is also funny and based on Hamlet for that added literary frisson).

Other than that, these books spring to mind, Kim Stanley Robinson's Antartica, Kevin Brockmeier's Brief History of the Dead (largely set in Antartica) and Ramsey Campbell's Midnight Sun, which is a frost-based horror novel (should make you glad for the heat).
posted by Kattullus at 9:44 AM on June 10, 2008

Oops! The Brief History of the Dead link was supposed to be to the Metacritic page for it, not the New Yorker extract.
posted by Kattullus at 9:56 AM on June 10, 2008

Affliction by Russell Banks. Brrrrrr!
posted by suki at 9:59 AM on June 10, 2008

I know you asked for novels, but for deep freeze and drama, there is no better story than that of Shakleton and the Endurance. Plenty of books on it are available.
posted by dzot at 10:25 AM on June 10, 2008

I think you'd like The Shipping News, too.

Are you okay with fantasy? How about Ursula Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:35 AM on June 10, 2008

Also, Nine below Zero, by the vastly underrated Kevin Canty is an excellent novel set during a cold Montana winter. Be warned though-- it's not exactly cheerful.
posted by dersins at 10:39 AM on June 10, 2008

Better than fiction: Ravens in Winter--a Zoological Detective Story by Bernd Heinrich.
posted by neuron at 11:10 AM on June 10, 2008

The Ice-Shirt and especially The Rifles, both by William Vollmann, will freeze your ass off. They're two volumes in an ongoing series, but there's no continuity between them other than historical background, so they don't need to be read in any particular order.
posted by newmoistness at 11:12 AM on June 10, 2008

The Arkady Renko books by Martin Cruz Smith.
posted by biscotti at 11:13 AM on June 10, 2008

Also, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. If it doesn't chill you down, it'll at least make you feel a little more grateful for the heat.
posted by newmoistness at 11:33 AM on June 10, 2008

The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I have read the first chapter of Winter's Tale at least a dozen if not more times. I can fully picture the white horse clomping through the city streets enjoying the serene peace. Ooo, I'm going to go read it again right now.
posted by little miss s at 12:14 PM on June 10, 2008

Independent People, another by Laxness, fits the bill. Sort of. While the plot is fairly straightforward, and involves mostly the foibles of raising sheep in Iceland, Laxness takes such care in building his characters it seems (to me) an epic. Everything Kattullus has said about Under the Glacier applies here also. Wickedly funny, astoundingly touching, beautifully written.

In non-fiction I can recommend The Gulag Archipelago. I took the opposite tact as you and read (half of) it over the winter. I tell you, nothing will make you feel as toasty warm (or freezing cold, as the case may be) as reading about shoeless marches through Siberia.
posted by clockwork at 12:32 PM on June 10, 2008

In addition to Antarctica, Kim Stanley Robinson's global warming trilogy-- Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, and Sixty Days and Counting-- are very good, and Fifty Degrees Below is plenty cold.

I've never wanted to sleep outside so much as I have while reading these books.
posted by cereselle at 1:24 PM on June 10, 2008

yiddish policeman's union - michael chabon
the shipping news - annie proulx
into the whirlwind - evgenia ginzburg (nonfiction about a young academic deported to siberia that is as compelling as fiction)
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:44 PM on June 10, 2008

Seconding dzot with his recommendation for books about Shackleton's expeditions to Antarctica. I just finished The Lost Men by Kelly Tyler-Lewis and after I got through the draggy opening chapters and on to the adventure, I simply could not put it down. This is an unbelievable tale and one that will surely chill you.
posted by bristolcat at 1:47 PM on June 10, 2008

Laura Ingalls Wilder The Long Winter and the escape sequence from Betty Mahmoody's Not Without my Daughter (which was changed to the desert in the film.)
posted by brujita at 2:33 PM on June 10, 2008

There's some really cold winter scenes in Neil Gaiman's American Gods. There's Jack London's White Fang.

Also, I rarely chime in to hate on books, but I would like to vote strongly against the book A Brief History of the Dead. It's the only book I read last year for which I want my time refunded.
posted by salvia at 5:24 PM on June 10, 2008

Another (ant)arctic horror tale - At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft.
posted by dfan at 7:58 PM on June 10, 2008

Voyage of the Narwhal by Andrea Barrett
posted by dhruva at 11:57 PM on June 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Jack London's books - such as The Call of the Wild and White Fang are cold weather classics. But nothing more than a short story called "To Build a Fire" which is about...well I won't spoil it.

Michael Faber's short story "The Fahrenheit Twins" is might appeal as well. They live way up north.
posted by rongorongo at 7:54 AM on June 11, 2008

The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge chilled my blood with its sense of unending winter, although the reader knows that in 150 years, summer, and the Summer Queen, will come again. It's fantasy and very-well written. I highly recommend it.
posted by Lynsey at 9:28 AM on June 11, 2008

The Navigator of New York by Wayne Johnston. (Bonus: the author's a really nice guy. And he's from Newfoundland!)
posted by tangerine at 11:25 AM on June 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you so much, everyone! I wish I could just make an order of everything mentioned here (and that I could afford such an order). But I will try to get as many as I can; I'm delighted with the all suggestions (including the non-fiction; I probably shouldn't have narrowed it down so much, but this means those recommendations must be extra-special - so I won't waste time regretting my parameters). Have a cool and happy summer, kind responders!
posted by taz at 1:04 PM on June 11, 2008

Lionel Davidson's Kolymsky Heights is a novel I admire. The scientific detail strains credulity (something to do with fibre-optics and a 'rogue harmonic' that can cure blindness) but it's really just an excuse to get our hero racing across the Siberian permafrost with the entire Russian army in pursuit. The final chase lasts for about 100 pages and is absolutely gripping.

I'm also a fan of Steve Hamilton's novels, which, as you might guess from the titles (North of Nowhere, The Hunting Wind, Ice Run), are set in the cold north (Upper Michigan) and have a strong sense of place. They benefit from being read in order (starting with A Cold Day in Paradise), though if it's cold you're after, you might want to start with the second, Winter of the Wolf Moon, in which our hero is left alone in a cabin in the middle of a snow-bound forest, without a coat. Brrrr!
posted by verstegan at 3:12 PM on June 15, 2008

A good amount of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy takes place in ... snowy places. Gah. I can't think. Read anyway!
posted by Xere at 11:05 PM on June 17, 2008

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