Title: The Ice People
Author: René Barjavel
Number of Pages: 205
Published: June, 1971
I hate starting write ups with personal experiences, because quite frankly it’s just too easy, but in this case it’s too funny and real to pass up. I came upon The Ice People pretty much on accident, while browsing through the Milwaukee Public Library. Shuffling through shelves of fiction books I arrived at the "B" authors, and automatically was greeted with the silliest looking cover I have ever seen. The first thing that caught my sight was the pee yellow face that greeted my face, which in itself was enough to make me laugh out loud. Reading the hyper-computer font, which looked like something people of the 70’s would image a computer text to look like, I giggled at the silly title of the novel I held in my hands: The Ice People. Automatically images of people made from ice came to mind, attacking civilization in some campy, pulp novel way. A little more detail reveals something that shook me though, not for being totally silly, but for being far too serious: "#1 Best-selling novel in France". This meant that I just had to check out the book, because if a novel was good enough for France in 1968, then it was certainly good enough for me in 2004. If only I knew that the book would have me crying like a little girl when I came to its completion.
The Ice People is virtually two stories in one: one taking place in the early 1970’s and the other taking place nine-hundred thousands years ago. Yeah, that’s right, a nine with five zeros after it. I learned that much after reading the inside jacket of the novel, which almost turned me into a laughing fit again. Either way, I took my new found treasure and went home, instantly sitting down to read.
It is insanely difficult to write a plot synopsis for this novel, because there are so many details, that leaving one out among a hodgepodge of other details would make the plot seem unintelligible. Especially with there being two stories, present and flashback, along with two other secondary stories, it would be impossible to grasp all of the subtleties that make The Ice People what it is: at once the pinnacle of storytelling, and at the other a brash social commentary on the world at large. Needless to say, this is not what I was expecting when I saw the cover.
A group of French scientists come upon an anomaly buried deep beneath the ice surface of Antarctica. After assembling an international team of all kinds of scientists they reach the anomaly, which is really the ruins of a pre-historic civilization. Within the ruins the team finds two frozen human beings, enclosed in golden eggs, that are still alive and in perfect condition. After unfreezing the woman, the present world is shown machines and gizmos that could virtually change the way the world works, and various governments get involved trying to get to the technology first, and for themselves.
The woman, Elea, utilizes one of the machines, placing a golden crown over her head, which allows her to project her memory. The world we see that was once Elea’s is a beautiful utpoia, where people are free to do what they like, and paired with life partners at an early age, determined by a computer that knows the perfect matches. But everything is not perfect. There is a second nation around on the Earth, Elea’s and another, and the other have not perfected things to the extent that Elea’s nation has. This brings about a global thermonuclear war. But things aren’t that simple. Along the way we are introduced to Elea’s life partner, Paikan, and we automatically fall in love with their love.
To say anything more would be unjust, as most of the novel flows so well that you must take it one thing after another, and revealing too much would be wrong. Needless to say, it has a pivotal ending that will probably make you cry a little, and will not be predictable at all.
The writing of Rene Barjavel, who is the best selling science fiction author in France, uses very simplistic language, which unfortunately can sometimes be too hard to understand. It may be from the translation, but while describing the ruins of the ancient civilization it is very hard to understand. However, this does not detract from the stories, which is probably one of the best of the 20th century.