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Ice (Hardcover)

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,116 Ratings  ·  186 Reviews
The last of Anna Kavan's books to be published in her lifetime, Ice is a surrealistic dream-novel set in an unrecognizable world padded by ice and snow, run by a secret government, invaded by aggressors, and threatened with nuclear destruction.

A nameless narrator in frenzied pursuit of a frail "ice-maiden" he once loved turns out to be not so much a character in his own ri
Bound, Hardcover, Paper Dust Jacket, 1st US hardback., 176 pages
Published 1970 by Doubleday (first published 1967)
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Mar 15, 2016 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mi Hermana
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Kris/Proustitue/Nate D
I was afraid the dream might turn out to be real…. Something in her demanded victimization and terror, so she corrupted my dreams, led me into dark places I had no wish to explore. It was no longer clear to me which of us was the victim. Perhaps we were victims of one another.

Stunningly surreal and chilling, Anna Kavan’s final novel, Ice, is a frightening plunge into the icy darkness of the human mind and heart. Written with a fitful urgency, the reader flows on the glimmering prose across swir
Nov 17, 2012 Kris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this extraordinary novel, Anna Kavan captures the claustrophobic feeling of being caught in a nightmare. The nameless narrator relates a fragmented story of searching for a beautiful, very thin woman with silver hair, who is also under the control of a powerful man, sometimes called the warden. The setting is an unnamed country, in which informers hide in dark corners and people look anxiously over their shoulders for some unspecified threat. The narrator provides a fragmented depiction of an ...more
Jeffrey Keeten
May 06, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: post-apocalyptic
“As her fate, she accepted the world of ice, shining, shimmering, dead; she resigned herself to the triumph of glaciers and the death of the world.”

 photo ice_zps1xxp1tsf.jpg

Her hair was a blizzard, a shimmering cascade of pale luminous moonlight. She was fragile as if made of glass and crystal, built like a waif with pallid skin and bruised eyes. She is an ice sculpture carved out of a glacier that is shattered and reassembled time and time again. He needs her, desires her, craves her. He wants to clench the slender b
May 30, 2012 knig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2012
This book is insane. That is what needs to go on the back cover blurb, not some measly reference to ‘slipstream’. Christopher Priest, in the foreword, calls it slipstream and likens it to, among others, Christopher Nolan’s Memento. Talk about being wide off the mark. Memento is fragmented, sure, but its a jigsaw puzzle with crenulated edges that can be assembled in a post-mortem. This stuff: its a different league altogether.

I need to talk about how I dream, if I am to convey the essence here. I
I was lost, it was already dusk, I had been driving for hours and was practically out of petrol. The idea of being stranded on these lonely hills in the dark appalled me, so I was glad to see a signpost, and coast down to a garage. When I opened a window to speak to the attendant, the air outside was so cold that I turned up my collar. While he was filling the tank he commented on the weather. ‘Never known such cold in this month. Forecast says we’re in for a real bad freeze-up.’ Most of my life ...more
Nate D
Sep 08, 2010 Nate D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: halucinating agents lost in tundra
Recommended to Nate D by: Patrick M
As soon as I started to hear about this book, I knew I had to read it: apocalyptic surrealist pseudo-sci-fi wherein a man seeks a women in a world gradually being engulfed by snow and ice. For whatever reason all-consuming ice has been very prominent in my personal symbology for well over a decade now (only recently noticed this trend, currently wondering how this happened). And it gets (justified) style/tone comparisons to Robbe-Grillet. And so it comes as very little surprise that I was totall ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I’m writing this in Word because my computer and goodreads both die or engage in any other manner of stupid at random, which I embarrassingly admit is taking a pretty decent toll on my general state of mental well-being. Anyway, I will be saving every 10 to 45 seconds, so forgive me if I sound a bit. Robotic. MS Word does not like “robotic” as a sentence entire, I’ll have you know. *save as – why_world_why.doc*

I have not been reading much lately, mostly due to a perk of my new-ish job being a de
Jun 14, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2013
The atmosphere was changing round me; suddenly there was a chill, as if the warm air had passed over ice. I felt a sudden uncomprehended terror, like the sensation that comes in nightmares just before one begins to fall.

As if written in one long, fretful breath, Ice plunges the reader directly into the cold dark waters of confusion. To say nothing is as it seems would be putting it lightly. Perception changes from one paragraph to the next, keeping us teetering and anxious. We meet, or think we
I partook in figure skating from as early as I can remember up until graduating from high school for the purposes of getting into a good college. For all that I have no interest in ever taking it up again, the sport of art was made up of characteristics that suited: solitude, lack of sun, conditions that both pushed to movement and desensitized to pain. Attested to by a multitude of scrapes, bruises, the odd broken bone and sliced up wrists of careless others, my aesthetic of action grew on a fr ...more
Ian Not His Real Name
Luminous in the Dark

Early on, the male narrator discloses to us, "Reality had always been something of an unknown quantity to me."

It’s hard to tell just how much of a dream, no, a nightmare, this novel is or will become, whether it's a recurrent dream, or whether it is more than that.

The girl, his nameless, ageless obsession, the object of his pursuit, is brittle, fragile, shy, elusive, "her skin moonwhite, her face a moonstone, luminous in the dark...her hair was astonishing, silver-white, a
Dec 22, 2015 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this book because I heard somewhere that it was about ice apocalypse. In snowless England I wanted to read something to make me grateful for a mild climate (which I’m otherwise not that happy with). So yes, this book did make me appreciate a mild climate and also the fact I don’t do drugs (generally).

I am yet to read a book which was published in the 60s and wasn’t completely bonkers. Our generation seems so tame and conservative in comparison. I can’t imagine contemporary big publisher
Dec 10, 2012 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had high hopes for this, but low expectations. I'd heard descriptions of it as hallucinogenic, fragmented, dislocating, with an apocalyptic-but-frustratingly-vague background. It sounds like a lot of potential--after all, many of the best books could arguably be described as hallucinogenic: a book and a hallucinogen both have in common the goal of transporting the subject to another reality. But in practice it rarely works out like this. When people say a book barely makes sense, but is still ...more
May 18, 2012 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mother Russia
Recommended to Mariel by: Nate
"The weight of the gun in my pocket was reassuring."

I think I'm going to be one of those famous last words people. Opening lines... (Check what was this?) "I was lost."

Anna Kavan's Ice spoke to my self destructive side. The fated victim and her determined destructors. There can be no joy, only a soul dark itch scratching from the feel of the blade on the skin. 'Ice' is like staring at unbroken skin and imagining the bleeding. The coldness is a burn of on the verge. Pursuit and no thrills. The n
Jul 25, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-women
What struck me most was the violence. Not the cataclysmic violence of an encroaching nuclear winter, or the senseless murder and destruction of wartime. It was the hand on an arm, the psychological hold of one person on another, the deer-in-headlights look of a woman whose ordained profession is that of "victim". Science fiction? Post-apocalyptic thriller? That was all atmosphere. Ultimately, I read Ice as a book about the push-and-pull of unhealthy, tortured relationships. It uncovers the lasti ...more
Jun 18, 2013 Mark rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mark by: Kris

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

This is the opening line of William Gibson's first novel, Neuromancer. It also sums up how I felt as I read Anna Kavan's Ice. I felt like I was watching an old analog television tuned to snow.


If you look at it long enough it's kinda mesmerizing, isn't it? You begin to see patterns, things coalescing and breaking up. Kind of like the shades in this novel. I can't rightly call them characters as they never felt that way t
Stephen P
Feb 21, 2013 Stephen P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first few pages of Kavan's novel were poorly written bordering on amateurish. If in a bookshop I was peeking in to see if I wanted to buy it I would have put it back and moved on. However, the respect I have for my GR friends and their excitement over Ice pushed me forward.

The story of a man searching for a woman, befuddled as to the reasons why within ten more pages unfolds into the intensity of Kavan's imagery. The imagery opens itself up to a number of interpretations, the brutality of h
Sep 03, 2012 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evoking a spectral spell, channeling a disorienting dream: stark and ethereal, a visionary's vision of life drained of all but obsession and fear; and yet, notwithstanding all of the preceding, curiously unaffecting when the gelid intravenous rush has passed. Although Kavan comes with references to—and I can definitely detect traces of—Franz Kafka, Ice reminded me rather throughout of Ishiguro's The Unconsoled , though featuring a much darker and more malignant chaotic slippage. Its subzero sto ...more
Edit (104 days later): Despite my initial 3 star rating, I feel compelled to give this book another star. I must admit that Ice is still haunting me, as some of the powerful images it aroused are still vivid in my mind. Few books have this power over me.


While I found Ice to be an interesting read, with moments of pure beauty and originality, in the end I was glad it was over, because it had failed to keep me under its spell for its entirety. While being a short book, to
Jan 04, 2014 Hadrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, scifi, fiction
Fearsome and intense novella about obsession, searching, and war. Kavan writes ruthless things here, about inner desires which consume us and the slow death of the world.

To put it bluntly: the windchill is -20 outside right now. She writes how that bitter cold feels.
The majority of this book was read with Brian Eno's Thursday Afternoon as the soundtrack. Perfect.

This is going to be a jerky review. As in "written by a jerk". As in I have a lot of thoughts about this book but in no way want to share them.

So until the day I do possibly ever want to share my thoughts of this book, I point you in the direction of some of my favorite reviews found on GR. They're all written more eloquently than my brain could even fathom right now.

The one word I'm left with, that
This was one of those amazing reads where I wondered how i had never heard of this woman before. It is the story of three people who are writhing and contorting around each other as the world, at an unspecified time, is gradually freezing to death. Nations are battling and fighting each other whilst ice gradually carpets and crushes everything. The international situation of needless warfare and pointless flight is mirrored on a small level by the battle and flight of the two men and one woman. ...more
Anna Kavan was born Helen Emily Woods, and later changed her name after a character from her own novel. Ice is arguably her most famous book, and the last that was published during her lifetime, in 1967 - she died only a year later.

Ice is a novel which defies categorization - it has been classified as science fiction and even won a genre award, but it's science fiction in the same sense that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is fantasy. In the introduction, Christopher Priest classifies it as "slipstream"
Jan 15, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: s.penkevich
This book is a literary haunting. Its taut, hallucinatory sentences and apocalyptic subject matter infect the reader with a desperation that lingers long after the book is finished. Several days after completing this novel I unwittingly see the landscape of my City swallowed in a slow moving wall of ice; imagining familiar places and vistas seen through a dozen feet of hard-edged ice. Is the protagonist's search for the girl an allegory of humankind's yearning for and then spurning of the soul o ...more
‘I was afraid the dream might turn out to be real…

An unnamed narrator moves in a world that’s half dream, half reality, an apocalyptic world about to end for good. A global climate disaster is affecting the earth, gigantic mountains of ice, slowly making their way through everything in their path. We’re never sure what’s real and what’s not, the narrator is impossibly unreliable, constantly changing attitudes and goals, he's unsympathetic, but our constant companion. It’s a world that has a ni
The characters of Ice cross frozen dreamscapes in pursuit of a nameless, fragile girl who keeps coming apart and being put back together again. Draconian government forces and militaristic laws characterise this bleak, ice-filled world in which nothing is reliable and boundaries are mutable. The fractured and surreal story can be interpreted in any number of ways: a depiction of the inner conflicts involved in love/relationships, a political allegory (the Cold War?), a record of encroaching ma
Dec 06, 2013 Melanie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'I felt I had been defrauded: I alone should have done the breaking with tender love.'

With only one laughing celebratory city to speak of, this otherwise ruinous world made dark and desperate by encroaching ice is the stage for our villain and his victim, ‘the girl’ bird-like, a ghost, a cowering child.

'It was incomprehensible to her, this extraordinary flight that went on and on.'

Anna Kavan's skillful narration provides an instant and shifting advantage for the reader to play victim, villain,
I finished this book Five days ago, and I still don't know what to write except, Wow!! What was that?!??

Kavan creates a world of menace, impending doom, and the end of all life on earth, and somehow she drops a convincing, sado-masochistic love triangle into the middle of it, complete with a James Bond-like narrator who is obsessed with a psychologically traumatized girl with "albino hair", whom he doesn't know if he should fuck her or beat her or kill her or forget her, and who he stalks throug
[4.5] Feb 2015

Strange to see that Ice actually has fewer than 1000 ratings – for a couple of years it (and Anna Kavan generally) has to me been something that Goodreads would never STFU about, and I’ve often been as sick of hearing about it as about any bestseller. I can’t instantly bring to mind the content of most of those reviews, other than the most recent one or two, but know there’s ample analysis of the book and its various interpretations on here.

I liked it better than expected, and can
Feb 10, 2013 Garima rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Garima by: Scribble Orca
Never judge a book by its 1st chapter. This book is brilliant!

Review may or may not follow.
Sentimental Surrealist
Every so often, I'll encounter a book so far from what I'm used to that I have to completely change the rules I've learned in able to interpret it at all. The Sound and the Fury blew the "search for symbolism" attitude they'd drilled into me in high school to all hell and back (although, curiously, Absalom, Absalom has one of the more symbolically blunt endings I've read), Gravity's Rainbow chipped away at the undergrad mode of "what does all of this mean on a broader level?" that still hasn't q ...more
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500 Great Books B...: Ice - Anna Kavan - Fionnuala 4 25 Jun 30, 2015 10:37AM  
Brain Pain: Discussion - Week One - Ice - Chapter 1 - 7 20 49 Nov 30, 2014 10:36PM  
Brain Pain: Discussion - Week Two - Ice - Chapter 8 - 15 26 33 Mar 11, 2014 09:11PM  
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Anna Kavan was born "Helen Woods" in France on April 10, 1901 to wealthy expatriate British parents.

Her initial six works were published under the name of Helen Ferguson, her first married name. These early novels gave little indication of the experimental and disturbing nature of her later work. I Am Lazarus (1945), a collection of short stories which explored the inner mindscape of the psycholo
More about Anna Kavan...

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“Reality had always been something of an unknown quantity to me.” 15 likes
“As her fate, she accepted the world of ice, shining, shimmering, dead; she resigned herself to the triumph of glaciers and the death of the world.” 8 likes
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