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3.69  ·  Rating details ·  6,470 ratings  ·  1,098 reviews
In this haunting and surreal novel, the narrator and a man known as the warden search for an elusive girl in a frozen, seemingly post-nuclear, apocalyptic landscape. The country has been invaded and is being governed by a secret organization. There is destruction everywhere; great walls of ice overrun the world. Together with the narrator, the reader is swept into a halluc ...more
Paperback, Modern classics, 158 pages
Published July 1st 2016 by Peter Owen Publishers (first published 1967)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,470 ratings  ·  1,098 reviews

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Jeffrey Keeten
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 slende
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Justin Tate
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If I lived forever, I would read this book 200 times, each time more slowly, bathing in every sentence and unearthing all the glorious subtext which must lie beneath its icebergs. As it is, with so many books and so little time, I still feel compelled to immediately dive back in.

Ice is the only easy read that's also a hard read. The writing is poetic, but simple and crisp. Never hard to understand. Actions are clear, the imagery ever-present. It reads, in many ways, like a movie--a dream-movie.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Ice, Anna Kavan

Ice is a novel by Anna Kavan, published in 1967. Ice was Kavan's last work to be published before her death, the first to land her mainstream success, and remains her most well-known work.

Ice is set during an apocalypse in which a massive, monolithic ice shelf, caused by nuclear war, is engulfing the earth. The male protagonist, and narrator of the story, spends the narrative feverishly pursuing a young, nameless woman, and contemplating the overwhelming but conflicting feelings
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Kevin Kelsey
Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Posted at Heradas

It’s difficult to determine which parts of Ice are actually happening and which are hallucinated by our unnamed protagonist. Making it even more disorienting, the point-of-view dips away from first person occasionally, capturing events that happen (maybe?) when he isn’t present, only to snap right back to our protagonist’s perspective as if nothing happened. Although, maybe he was actually there the whole time, he’s not really sure himself. Sometimes, mid-book, his character tak
I was going to start off by describing this as dream-like, but it's actually a nightmare.

The Earth is rapidly covering with ice, a death sentence for its inhabitants. Meanwhile, our unnamed male narrator in an unnamed country has an obsession with a woman from his past. He feels compelled to save her, not only from the ice, but also from her rather jerky husband, then later from the more sinister "warden".

What I assumed would be a relatively simple plot in relatively few pages, is actually diso
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
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Riveting, breathless, nightmarish prose, a stream of word-horror so intense it's hard to fathom, equally hard to look away from. The plot: a globetrotting rescue before ice-extinction sets in. Or is it a chase? Therein lies the rub: everything has a double-face, an ambiguity rooted in subjectivity and dreams, everything except the ice, which is ineluctable, a fact that no one can wish or dream away. A book like this is incredibly difficult to pull off, skirting on that razor's edge between brill ...more
mark monday
What does the future of the world hold for us little humans? Let us take a look.


The weapons of the atom deployed. The nations of men in battle. Borders and boundaries blurred, broken, crossed, lines drawn as if in the sand and just as easily erased. The small towns and villages suffer first, as always, but the cities and then countries will follow and fall. The world turns hot then cold, its people huddle and flee, the walls of ice encroach: a return to old forms, a slow domination by the wo
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 20, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-ce, uk, fiction
Very high-grade pulp. The story’s achronological plot—as in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie—doesn’t jigsaw together until the very end. Highly fragmented and dystopic—a new Ice Age is taking place concurrent with global war—it’s the story by a unnamed soldier’s obsession with a white-haired little slip of a girl. Everything is withheld: who the girl is, how she met her pursuer, what is her past, why are all cities in ruins, and so on. All those facts, which may or may not be determi ...more
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
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jack Tripper
(Art by Anna Kavan)*

This is on my short list for all-time favorite novel, and yet I can't properly explain why that is. It doesn't exactly feature a thrilling plot or even relatable characters, but the overall feel of the book is so uniquely strange and disorienting that I'm entirely absorbed anyway, similar to (as others have mentioned) watching a David Lynch film. I find myself revisiting certain sections pretty often, just to envelop myself in the cold, hallucinatory world of the narrator, wh
E. G.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Foreword, by Jonathan Lethem


Afterword, by Kate Zambreno
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was ok

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
Ian "Marvin" Graye
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,
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dystopia
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
Dave Schaafsma
I think I have read a few Kavan stories over the years but this is the first novel, I believe, that I have read from her, and it will not be the last, though it is grim, hallucinatory, surreal, dystopian. I could say it is a combination of mystery and misery. One of my last novels was Blindness by Jose Saramago, an allegory, and this might be described similarly.

It’s a short book, published in 1967, but you know, you might not need much more intensity than this length provides. The plot is not
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
She herself did not seem quite real. She was pale and almost transparent, the victim I used for my own enjoyment in dreams.

Likely 2.5 stars. Ice is a mess of symbols running amok amongst myriad time signatures, the headlines being transposed into morality fables and a strange girl with silver hair insisting for 209 pages that No Means No. Kavan deftly assembles a nightmarish sound stage. It certainly exhibits the slipping mechanics and logic of our slumbers. It simply grew flat. The Ice Age is c
Warren Fournier
Jan 01, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Ice" is one of the most fascinating works of science fiction I've ever encountered, and perhaps one of the most disturbing books I've ever read.

Set in a war-torn future further ravaged by climate change, we encounter civilization as maintaining some semblence of modernity, with cars and watercraft, but also living like Cossack soldiers during the Russian Civil War at the turn of the 20th Century. Something has changed the weather, as the temperature drops and tall glaciers close over remnant vi
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
May 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Althea Ann
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
This month's post-apocalyptic book club selection!

I actually read the 1974 paperback, but that cover is so bad that I just don't want to stare at it in my book list all year! (https://images.gr-assets.com/books/13...) That edition also features an introduction by Brian Aldiss, who is responsible for convincing Kavan to allow him to market her book as a science fiction title. It's kind of... not, however.

Also, I really wished that the introduction had been positioned as an afterword. It contains
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
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
"Kafka's sister" is how Anna Kavan gets described sometimes, and she shares Kafka's frustration, the feeling that the world makes no sense. One is not sure how to find what one is looking for; one is not even sure what one is looking for. One is not sure what one is doing, but it does not seem to be going well.
All this was real, it was really happening, but with a quality of the unreal; it was reality happening in quite a different way.

But "Kafka's sister" feels a little patronizing, doesn't it
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"
I don’t suppose it’s uncommon for a novel to be described as “dreamlike”, but it applies more to this book than any other I’ve read. The experience of this novel really is like being in the midst of somebody else’s dream.

The storyline, if it can even be called that, involves an unnamed male narrator engaging in the obsessive pursuit of an unnamed and waif-like young woman. The narrator is faced with a rival called “the Warden.” The reader can make up their own mind about the relationship between
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500 Great Books B...: Ice - Anna Kavan - Fionnuala 4 45 Jun 30, 2015 10:37AM  
Brain Pain: Discussion - Week One - Ice - Chapter 1 - 7 20 67 Nov 30, 2014 10:36PM  
Brain Pain: Discussion - Week Two - Ice - Chapter 8 - 15 26 43 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

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