South Pole Station – Ava reviews

South Pole Station

Author: Ashley Shelby

Salubrious, acerbic, hilariously funny, deleterious – such a conundrum of affect in one book about life, love and climate change at the furthest place on Earth – South Pole Station – this novel ran with the ethereal wolves and had my laughing, fascinated and bummed out simultaneously.  Entertaining and gloriously fun, informative and judicious, Ashley Shelby reminded me to Kurt Vonnegut at his best in Catch 22.  Fun witty and FUNNY!

As an artist, Cooper Gosling finds herself applying for the National Science foundation’s Artist & writers Program in Antarctica at the South Pole Station, a place where science geeks, and a various assortment of outliers and misfits congregate to work and play as they are loners and can answer the 500 questions required to be allowed into the program.  The questions are strange:  Do you have problems with authority (yes being the required answer): would you rather be a florist or a truck driver (truck driver); are you often sad (yes) – and yet Cooper is stunned when she passes the requirements and heads into the coldest place on earth with no sun for 6 months with a cadre of fellow Odd Ones.

Cooper is in an odd personal place.  Her twin brother David, a schizophrenic, has just committee suicide and her art is a non-event; she cannot grieve either.  So off she heads to the headquarters of Veritas Integrated Defense Systems (VIDS) headquarters who runs the show at South Pole Station.  Her father loved the adventures at the Pole; the Northwest Passage, Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott and gives Cooper a book on her way out, Aspley Cherry-Garrard’s The Worst Journey in the World.  Cooper takes it with her, hoping to feel something for her family as she goes Up Under.

She succeeds at Fire School, the Denver training ground, and picks up her cold weather gear (ECW) and learns that the newbies are called Fingys and are required to go through infantile razzing before the winter people (people who have wintered there through 6 months of total darkness) accept her.

As Cooper finds her ice-husband, the son of a brilliant and famous scientist and climatologist, she wonders what and if she will be able to paint.  She befriends Tucker, the Afro American director of the station, and he becomes her mentor.  And she paints.  She starts out with a triptych of mittens, and then starts painting what become her dear friends and associates.  As Cooper bonds with some of the strangest people she has ever met, she finds another family at the South Pole and even with an unnecessary and somewhat tragic accident she is finally able to grieve David and find her place in the strange and marvelous activities at South Pole.  As she gets involved with the two theories – Creationism and the Big Bang, and her lover Sam’s alternate theory of collision of dimensions as the start of the earth, she quickly becomes the pivot point between the two.

Laughing out loud funny juxtaposed firmly against scientific theory, South pole Station is a delight to read and I hated putting it down at the end.  Luscious like tiramisu, tempting as a sunlight cruise, and funny as a Seinfeld episode, get your happy on with South Pole Station.

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