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3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  130 ratings  ·  24 reviews
In 1871, nineteen men, women, and children, voyaging on the Arctic explorer USS Polaris found themselves cast adrift on an ice floe as their ship began to founder. Based on one of the most remarkable events in polar history, Afterlands tells the haunting story of this small society of castaways -- a white and a black American, five Germans, a Dane, a Swede, an Englishman, ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 5th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 2005)
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Friederike Knabe
Three memorable historical figures are at the centre of this admirable historical adventure story, set in the last decades of the nineteenth century: Roland Kruger, German second mate hired for the 1871-72 Polaris expedition, his superior and increasingly his nemesis, Lt. George Tyson, and Hannah (Tukulito) Ebierbing, the first professional translator of the Inuit (then called Esquimau) language. During a heavy winter storm part of the Polaris crew is adrift in the passage between Greenland and ...more
Intense, and a fine exploration of what trauma mastery looks like!

"He never can resist a test. If none arises, he will find ways of engineering one. Without constant proofs of strength and competence he feels himself fading, shrivelling into soething less than hiself- less than solid. He must keep ramming himself up against the world to make sure he is all there." (21-22)

"Ramming himself up against the world" is such a perfect description of Tyson and Kruger, who find themselves at the end of a
This is the first book I've read as a result of a Goodreads recommendation, and I liked it. In the 1860s, 19 people were trapped on an iceberg in the North Atlantic for an entire winter with very little food and few supplies. The group included two Inuit families, German immigrants, and a black man. About half of the book took place in the Arctic, and the rest took place in the U.S. and Mexico after they survived their ordeal. It described, interestingly, what happens to people who are confined ...more
This book started out well-- a captivating story of a group of 19 individuals trapped on an ice floe in the Arctic. Unfortunately, that part of the story (the part based on historical records and actual events) took up only about half of the novel. The rest was a slow, somewhat implausible invention-- the author's idea of what may have happened to some of the individuals after being rescued from the floe. It went from being a book I couldn't put down to a book I was reluctant to pick up.
Paul Butler
Afterlands, set in the 1870s, dramatizes the plight and the aftermath of explorers and seamen of different nationalities stranded on a shrinking ice-pan. In the true-life story of the Polaris expedition Heighton has found the perfect metaphor from which to explore the bankruptcy of nationalism and colonialism. He vividly depicts the way in which Aboriginal culture is appropriated and misrepresented after the event. Inuit hunters keep the Europeans and Americans alive somewhat against the odds bu ...more
This book pulled me in from the start, from its narrative, characters and the story itself, it was a book hard to put down, and book I'd highly recommend, as it's one that's well worth reading. The writing style was wonderful. The author managed to capture a lot of power and emotion with the writing style, which was part of what had me so engrossed in the book. The writing style/narrative especially during kept the book going, even parts that were slower or a little repetitive. The story itself, ...more
This historical fiction was a refreshing change from some of the heavy reading our book club was doing.

The story is based on the Polaris Expedition to the North Pole in 1871 during which 19 people were cast adrift on an ice flow and survived from October to April.

History has records of Tyson, the leader of the failed expedition, and Hannah, the Inuit woman who played a large role in the survival of her castaways. Kruger has been painted by Tyson as one of the main troublemakers and mutineers. Ot
Clare Smith
I had been told this book was hard to finish, so my expectations were not disappointed. The story line did fascinate me and was mostly plausible. The style of writing was at times disconcerting but certainly set the mood and pace of what is essentially a story about the darker side of humans in a dark place and time.
By no means a "couldn't put it down" read but thought provoking and different.
This book started slow and barely picked up speed. Heighton has a great cast of characters to work with but does nothing with them. Every character is flat and stock, and you don't care about their lives, as you never see more than the surface. He creates a piece-meal book that focuses too long on ice-floe survival to only be about the after-effects of this traumatic experience but then focuses too long on the after-effects for it to be about the initial survival story. There was no element to g ...more
Great book - about a disastrous voyage in the Arctic aboard the Polaris (a fictional account of a true story.) Fascinating account of the hardships they faced, the personal relationships, the extreme conditions. Also historical aspects of their survival that were totally unexpected by me - one crewman a former slave, several German citizens who were distrusted by the British crewmen, the distrust of the seamen for the Inuit who saved their lives. All of great interest and wonderfully written.
Picked this up after reading Jennifer Niven's "Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic" about the Polaris expedition. I really loved that book. I really did not love THIS book. I never got used to the author's lack of quotation marks in conversations - very hard to follow. And he took enormous liberties by fabricating a life after the voyage for one of the German soldiers - a section that might as well have been, SHOULD have been, an entirely different book.
I enjoyed this one, though not quite as much as Shadow Boxer (which now lives on my list of all time favourites). The language in Afterlands seems much more spare, cold, and slow. Of course, thinking it through later, I realized that actually fit the story perfectly, since it's about a group of people who are trapped on an iceberg - it's cold, it moves slowly, and it is completely barren. Makes sense!
Jude Grebeldinger
An epic adventure story, complex characters, historical tale of an Arctic whaling mission gone wrong and the aftermath of suffering and endurance. It stretches on through the resulting tumultous years in Mexico, New England and Canadian Arctic, embracing the Inuit girl and mother, so central to the survival of the sailors.
Since I have more interest in polar exploration, & none at all in the Spanish-American war, which is what the majority of this book pertains to, I did not even finish reading this book. I found the title, cover, & marketing of this book very misleading, & the book itself extremely boring.
OK, I tried again, but the mishmash of Tyson's diary and other points of view are too muddling for me.
After reading "The Solitude of Thomas Cave" I wasn't ready to read another arctic survival story that didn't grab me right off the bat--and this one did not.

"Afterlands","Steven Heighton"
"A novel based mostly on an incredible true survival story. I felt the historical facts so compelling there was no need to embellish upon them, and had difficulty visualizing events as the ice floe started breaking up."
Apr 05, 2007 lindsay rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with insomnia
This book has the honor of being perhaps the worst novel I've ever read -- painful from start to finish. I might actually pay someone to take it off my shelf because I'm embarrassed I own it.
The writing itself was excellent; however, I couldn't get into the story. Stopped reading with only 10 pages left to go (I've NEVER done that before!)
Really bland and boring book. If I wasn't taking a course that required it, there's no way I would have kept with it.
A fascinating story, but the style of writing isn't one I enjoy. I'm left with a lot to think about though.
Excellent and beautifully written historical fiction.
4.25 stars. 4.5 for the ice floe, 4.0 for post-ice floe.
Kathryn Jennex
Look what I just found under the chair!
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Steven Heighton (born August 14, 1961) is a Canadian novelist, short story writer and poet. He is the author of ten books, including two short story collections, three novels, and five poetry collections.[1] His most recent novel, Every Lost Country, was published in 2010.

Heighton was born in Toronto, Ontario, and earned a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree, at Queens University.[2]

More about Steven Heighton...
Every Lost Country The Dead Are More Visible The Shadow Boxer Flight Paths of the Emperor The Address Book: Poems

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