A container of viruses - mutated and cryogenically frozen - is brought under heavy guard to SPIRE, a remote research station in Antarctica. Within days, people are dying of diseases that haven't been seen since the middle ages.
Surgeon and virologist, Dr Caroline Burchell, struggles to contain the outbreak as a vicious polar storm lashes the base. The weather prevents any help from getting through to the loneliest outpost on earth.
Soon Caroline discover that the only thing worse than being alone in this desolate place is not being alone.
This compulsive thriller with its compassionate and resourceful heroine will keep you turning pages late into the night. Spire is a sequel to Fiona Snyckers' suspense novel Now Following You, which was long-listed for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize.
Literally read this book in one sitting. Fast-paced and adrenaline-inducing, I was blown away by the depth of this book, and how much research must have gone into writing it. According to the cover, this is the second book in a trilogy, but I read it as a stand alone and it didn't come across as a sequel in any way, so if you haven't read the first, don't let that out you off. What does put me off is this strange GR cover version - the real book is so pretty, I'm not sure why the cover hasn't been uploaded. Tut tut, publisher people!
That aside, I recently watched a movie called White Out, starring Kate Beckinsale, and this book reminded of that, especially as Caroline went about the base, outside, and when she was unaware she was being watched.
Spire by Fiona Snyckers is a recommended thriller set in Antarctica.
Dr. Caroline Burchell is a surgeon and virologist who has been chosen to join the team of SPIRE and spend the winter in Antarctica doing research. SPIRE stands for the South Pole International Research Establishment. Caroline has brought vials of cryogenically frozen viruses that she plans to study over the 8-9 months she will be there. Before she can even begin her research though, the whole team there is coming down with a wide ranging number of diseases that are represented in her vials. The only problem is that the seals on her vials are all still intact which means someone else has brought the same deadly diseases to the station and released them. Soon Caroline is the only survivor with no hope of rescue in sight; however soon mysterious occurrences in the station make her suspect that there may be another survivor hiding from her.
The set up to Spire is intriguing as I am always up for virus-outbreak stories. Then it changed into potentially an exciting lone-woman-against-the-elements story. For a brief, shining moment I thought it was going to be sort of a twist on The Martian, or Endurance, only with a female doctor trapped at an Antarctica research station, but it soon lost some of its initial momentum and morphed into something else. The quality of the writing is adequate, no glaring problems and written in a simple, easy to follow style reminiscent of a YA novel.
Once the story changed, it lost its energy. The viruses were introduced to eliminate everyone and add a twist that was, quite frankly, not very believable. Add to this Caroline's finding a cat at the station, and her ability to use the internet, contact people, including colleagues and her family, Skype, etc., made the disorienting sense of isolation and solitude vanish. The horrible sense of isolation and potential for death, etc., was really only fully utilized during one part of the plot. FYI, it's also not a very tech-savvy novel for those of you who care about such things.
Now, it is still an interesting story. It was easy to set all my misgivings aside and just enjoy the novel as is. Don't expect any great use of the viruses, though, beyond a plot element to isolate Caroline. This is an airplane book. It will hold your attention and help pass the time but you won't worry if you never finish it. Apparently it is a sequel to the novel Now Following You, but you won't need to read that before Spire.
THE SPIRE is a fascinating novel about one of my favourite topics, Antarctica, and about terrifying eco-terrorism. Terrifying from the point of view of the human race, this extremist form targets the human species in toto. Dr. Caroline Burchell is a surgeon and virologist accepted for winterover in Antarctica at the South Pole Research Station. She intends to study certain dangerous viruses in extreme cold. What she couldn't expect is an outbreak, not involving the viruses she brought in, that wipes out the personnel of SPIRE. She also couldn't plan on being adjudged a mass murderer. What follows is immediately and continuously riveting. Caroline is an immensely strong female protagonist and eliciting readers' empathy (if not that of the eco-terrorist!)
I read and loved Now Following You, Fiona Snyckers' young-adult/adult crossover novel about a social media maven whose addiction gets her into trouble. Next, I obviously followed Fiona on Twitter. As you would, having just finished a novel about online stalking. When she started serialising Spire, releasing a chapter a day, I thought, ok, this could be fun. I've never read a Twitter novel before. Probably won't be that good, it's an experiment after all. Wrong. It is that good. I harassed Fiona (on Twitter) some nights when she didn't load the daily chapter before my bedtime (unacceptable). This is a thriller in the cliff-hanger tradition, but unlike Dickens' novels, serialised in newspaper, this was serialised electronically. Don't you love the future? However, those who don't wait to wait an entire 24 hours for the next instalment can now buy the actual book. Just do it. It's great. I have no way of knowing if the polar station stuff is true - it certainly seems impressively well researched - and I didn't care because it was very convincingly written. A strong, resourceful woman on her own with just a bunch of mutated viruses... The medical details were also convincing. I won't give away spoilers but Caroline, the lead character, is a doctor and all the medical research seems also to have been thoroughly done. As someone who lives with a doctor Grey's Anatomy has forever been spoilt for me because I have to watch it through groans and shrieks of protest (It's not like that in real life!!!). Highly recommended.
SPIRE - South Pole International Research Establishment
I really enjoy reading books about extremely cold locations so of course anything based on Antarctica is going to be on my radar.
This is one of the best fiction books I've read about this dangerous, inhospitable environment.
Dr. Caroline Burchell from Johannesburg, South Africa, has been chosen to be the resident surgeon at the SPIRE base and to winter-over at the SPIRE base. She is also a virologist and plans on testing the incubation period of viruses in isolated communities (and what is more isolated than Antarctica in the winter).
What she doesn't expect is for her fellow residents at the base to start getting extremely ill from exotic viruses - viruses that only Caroline has access to.
I loved Caroline's character - a very strong woman placed in impossible circumstances.
The story was fast-paced and full of action and "oh s**t" moments. I loved the whole story from beginning to end.
I received this book from Clockwork Books through Net Galley in exchange for my unbiased review.
SPIRE by Fiona Snyckers is without a doubt the worst book I have read this year. I hear Homer Simpson in the back of my head saying “so far” but I think this one has the legs to take on any contenders.
The main character, Dr Caroline Mary-Sue, is a surgeon/virologist/genius who goes to Antarctica to work at the ridiculously named South Pole International Research Establishment. She is separated from her know-it-all daughter and her co-habitant male companion, but fortunately they are only a quick skype call away.
Shortly after she arrives, people start falling sick, with a diverse array of infectious diseases to which our erstwhile hero is conveniently all immune. She is left, seemingly alone, in a facility filled with dead bodies, and is forced to survive because the research foundation is a bunch of uncaring arseholes who think she is the murderer and don’t want to send a rescue for her.
Naturally she insists that she is innocent, and must set about working through back channels to survive, and uncover the real culprit behind the murders of her colleagues. Everyone from the establishment to INTERPOL seems prepared to let her just starve, freeze and die in the next 8-9 months.
That’s the premise out of the way, let’s talk about the politics of this book.
In the opening pages there is a discussion of “light skin privilege”, and this trend of feminist ideology continues throughout the novel. I don’t think this book could have been any more feminist if it tried, with a brilliant, misunderstood woman fighting against an uncaring patriarchy, and its legion of incompetent predominantly male minions. This hits all the hot button topics from Islamophobia and racial profiling, to general dismissal of our heroine’s brilliance. Fortunately, there are also a few allies to help her along the way.
This book is trying way too hard to be a sort of Flashdance/Alien crossover, and its premise of one girl against the world quickly grows old. Dr Mary-Sue is an unsympathetic know it all who can basically do everything. There were times when she was called on to do some scientific mumbo-jumbo – which I didn’t really understand, but thought it would have been outside of her field of expertise - that was just sort of handwaved.
Okay, her name isn't really Dr Mary-Sue.
Despite being stuck in Antarctica, she also seems to have extremely convenient constant access to the internet, although she mostly uses it for skyping and … WebMD (basically). I live in a major city and my internet isn’t that great, yet this seems to be no barrier to her.
The “bad guy” is basically an autistic guy who sits in a closet and watches her on closed circuit television. I say “bad guy” for lack of a better term, since everyone in the entire world besides her immediate family, and a few close internet friends, are basically servants of the patriarchy and are therefore “bad guys”. At one point Dr Mary-Sue says that at least her academic colleagues recognise the brilliance of her research while the establishment are just prepared to let her die in a freezing hell. Very eye roll worthy.
This is what happens when authors try to write techno-thrillers full of empowering feminist messages. It’s tedious, it feels incredibly inauthentic, and a lot of the action and events feel entirely cartoonish.
The only reason I stuck with the book – apart from my own masochism – was to see how badly it would all end, and needless to say the author didn’t let me down. This was an awful read from the first page to the last, and lacks any kind of momentum. Whatever pitfalls the main character encounters you already know are going to be overcome through some deus ex machina, or klutzy awesomeness.
The blurb of the book sounded interesting enough, which is why I picked it up in the first place. And if the author had taken that promise and run with it, developed proper freaking tension, and given the main character some legitimate challenges to overcome, and not just insta-win buttons for everything, this might have been a readable book.
At least it was short.
I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Imagine being in one of the most remote places on the planet … alone … but inexplicably, not alone, which is somehow worse! That’s what Fiona Snyckers presents us with in SPIRE, set in the South Pole International Research Establishment. Dr Caroline Burchell has been selected as part of a team to ‘Winter over’ at the base. They’re there for the full season until September, which is when the next planes arrive to relieve them of their duties. She’s brought with her a container of mutated viruses which have been cryogenically frozen. Very soon after her arrival, however, the rest of her team begin to succumb to all manner of illnesses and before too long, Caroline is the only surviving team-member left on the base! How on earth does one survive in such isolated, harsh conditions, especially when you’re suspected of being a mass murderer? While a devastating Arctic storm pounds at the base, Caroline is determined to survive to prove her innocence, despite the increasingly chilling evidence that someone is trying to thwart her every move. Using every available resource, including an unlikely external ally, and a very unreliable Skype connection, the reader is led breathlessly through this edge-of-your-seat thriller that will keep you guessing, as you cheer for this inventive heroine. The topic of the Arctic is intriguing to many; the isolation, the temperatures, the climate, are all things that are possible topics of interest. I have to admit, I’ve never given the subject much thought, but after reading SPIRE, my curiosity was piqued. What fascinated me the most, however, was the exceptional research that the author has done in the creation of this novel. I just couldn’t stop thinking about it because it’s truly remarkable! 5 big glittery stars for SPIRE and an extra one (just because I can!) for the extraordinary amount of research that impressed me so much!!
Dr. Caroline Burchell is on the assignment of a lifetime. A talented surgeon and virologist, Caroline has been accepted as a “winter-over” scientist in SPIRE, a remote research station in Antarctica. Her subject of research – a container of cryogenically frozen viruses – has been brought to Antarctica under heavy guard, and is kept under highly secure lock and key. Which doesn’t explain why her fellow researchers and residents are coming down with the bubonic plague, ebola, and SARS…
As the Antarctic winter gets under way, Caroline has the odds stacked against her. There’s the unexplained outbreak, a station that requires life-risking maintenance and repair, and the mounting suspicion from her superiors in New York that she herself is the cause of the outbreak. An excellent mix of science and suspense, Spire will have you turning the page in anticipation and terror as you root for Caroline to make it through and find out who, exactly, released those viruses in the first place.
SPIRE by Fiona Snyckers. I've been trying to find the words to do justice to describing the book. I can't seem to get past WOW and amazing. I could not put the book down until it was finished. Loved Caroline and Charka and the whole story line. Highly recommended.
Thank you to the publisher, author, and NetGalley for the opportunity to preview the book.
The Spire has many elements that make for a good vacation book for me. I enjoyed the setting (Antartica) and the resourcefulness of the main character. Fiona did a great job of adding enough technical details to increase the validity of the story without any drag on the plot - nicely researched. I would definitely read more by this author.
I couldn't put this book down! Made me think of The Stand blended with a good portion of Greys Anatomy and a dash of Deon Meyer to season. I was super excited at the addition of Charka the cat as well.
This story is a real page turner. Virologist Dr Caroline Burchell ends up being the lone survivor of some sort of virus or bio attack on the South Pole research station. But is she?
As she battles to keep the station in basic working order all by herself and somehow prove her innocence, whilst maintaining some sort of sanity at the same time, the tension builds.
I won't give more away but there are some nice twists and surprises in the story to keep you guessing and biting those nails.
Dr. Caroline Burchell and her nurse Kelebile Chuma have a major crisis on their hands. Wintering over in the Antarctic they have an outbreak of serious and deadly diseases that have not been seen for centuries. People start dying. Caroline sends out a message to the rest of the base for volunteers to help in sick bay. No one answers. She does a quick survey of the station and finds many dead and a few survivors. These she sends to sick bay.
Then Kelebile falls ill and Caroline is alone with her many patients. Then worse news occurs. Caroline herself falls ill.
This is the remarkable story of one woman’s grit and determination to survive in a hostile and deadly environment. After recovering from her illness, she meticulously plans her day. She finds a friend. She finds an enemy. She learns that she is not alone as long as Skype keeps working. She receives messages on the sly from a friend outside the pod.
This is an extremely well written and plotted book. There were a couple of weak points, but they did not detract from the story at all. There were a couple of points that I wanted explained a little better. The book is both suspenseful and exciting. I truly enjoyed reading it.
I want to thank Netgalley and Clockwork Books/IBPA Members’ Titles for forwarding to me a copy of this great book to read.
– Let's be honest here – I'm the black guy in the red shirt beaming down with the landing party. A salt demon will get me. Or a face-sucking parasite. –
– The ecologists might see Antarctica as a delicate flower, but in Caroline's eyes she was a tough bitch who would outlast them all. –
–Of the whole contagion of humanity that blanketed the earth, women were the most infected. They were the fecund ones, the ones that carried the seeds of the next generation in their wombs. Their diseased ovaries spat out eggs every month, like large-cell bacteria that lived to multiply. –
– Men did stupid and criminal things around her. It didn't make her feel flattered or wanted. It made her feel unsafe. –
– Goran Elkabir was clearly a bat who hung upside down in his cave for a few hours each night, probably with a cell phone clutched in his claws. –