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Cold Earth

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3.44  ·  Rating details ·  899 ratings  ·  163 reviews
A darkly atmospheric, intelligent novel about a team of young archaeologists in Greenland, unearthing the remains of an extinct Norse community while a plague rages in the outside world.
Paperback, 280 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Granta (first published 2009)
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Canadian Yianna's ashes--he died of hypothermia.

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3.44  · 
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 ·  899 ratings  ·  163 reviews


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Paul
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Much to my surprise I quite enjoyed this novel, despite a very unsatisfactory ending. The premise is a simple one. Six people head off on a dig to Greenland in the artic summer. They go to a very isolated spot where there were viking settlements which disappeared (plague or massacre, we are never entirely certain). The six are a varied and suitably irritating bunch, one of whom is a complete novice (a literature student doing a thesis). They have limited contact with the outside world and are th ...more
Simon
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm torn on this one. I kind of liked it a lot. I kind of thought it was a bit all over the place. One of those. The themes and ideas behind it were brilliant (archaeologists in Greenland where there might be ghosts or monsters and their might be an apocalyptic epidemic in the rest of the world) the delivery interesting. But occasionally it all stuttered along or jarred. But overall good. I think.
Rebecca
I’ve now read Moss’s complete works (well, her five novels and travel book at least; not the more academic stuff), just in time for her new novella coming out in September (Ghost Wall). This was her first book, and it’s really good, a suspenseful story of six people on an archaeological dig in West Greenland: three men and three women, all English or American academic types looking for distraction at a time when the world is under threat from a distressing epidemic. From the day they arrive, the ...more
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
Ahahahahahahaha! OK, this book isn't supposed to be funny but it's only for the fact that I laughed through most of it (albeit when I wasn't supposed to) that it gets 3 stars and not one.

Oh dear, oh dear. Plot idea = great. Execution = erm, not. When I first read the blurb on the back of this I really thought I was in for a treat. Six archaelogoists on a dig in Greenland and then they get news of an epidemic back home and their communication with the outside world falls away and they are left
...more
K.
3.5 stars.

I've shelved this as "dystopian", but it's really speculative fiction. I just don't read enough spec fic to warrant having a shelf for it. So.

This reminded me quite a lot of Station Eleven, in that it's spec fic and there's a plague. Which doesn't sound that much like it should remind me of Station Eleven, but here we are.

So the basic gist of the story is that this team of archaeologists goes to excavate a site in Greenland. As the excavation progresses, they slowly start to lose co
...more
Bev
Cold Earth is a debut novel by Sarah Moss. It is set in Greenland with a team of six archaeologists and researchers from the United States, England and Scotland spending a few weeks at the beginning of the Arctic summer searching for traces of a lost Viking settlement. While they are on the expedition, there is an epidemic of some sort going on and they gradually lose contact with family at home and the outside world in general. In response, they each write what may be their last letter home.

Add
...more
Rachael
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Six postgraduates head to remote Greenland for an archeological dig whilst there are early reports of a spreading pandemic. I thought the synopsis sounded fantastic, the thought of a group of people trying to survive an apocalyptic event whilst trying to cope with isolation, cold, darkness and uncertainty. Does that sound good to you? If it does, this may not be the book for you. The first 90% is concerned with the mundane details of the dig, the character's back stories and thoughts. As the int ...more
Blair
The blurb for this book includes a) an extract from a review likening it to The Secret History and b) a quote from Scarlett Thomas, calling it 'one of the most powerful and gripping debut novels I have ever read'. A comparison to my favourite contemporary novel and praise from my favourite contemporary author: how could I not want to read it?

Cold Earth follows a group of young people on an archaeological dig in Greenland. The team is made up of four archaeologists, Ruth, Catriona, Ben and Jim, a
...more
Paulo "paper books always" Carvalho
This book was a waste of time. Why did I read it until the end? Don't know. This book is a failure in everything it stands off. First of all, I put in Horror section but what's the horror here? I put it apocalyptic fiction but... the only thing that says that is when they receive news of a virus or plague is ravaging USA and then UK and the rest of the world but we know this with only a few words of a shepherd.

So, they are in Greenland digging some viking burial ground. OK.
We have 6 archaeologi
...more
Jacki (Julia Flyte)
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A team of six archaeologists from the UK and US travel to remote Greenland to spend two months excavating a long abandoned settlement. As they leave, there are news reports of a new flu epidemic breaking out. Within a short time, their internet stops working and they have no contact with the outside world. As they excavate, they find evidence of violence. They hear strange sounds at night and sometimes things have moved while they sleep. As the days get shorter and colder and their food supplies ...more
Nikki
Jan 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
The first narrator of this book is so boring, self-centred and wooden that I couldn't even get through her section. It's supposed to be a bit haunting, judging from people describing it as a "chiller" and so on, but... Eh, shrug. It didn't even keep me interested, let alone on the edge of my seat. It didn't help that I actually have done some academic work on the sagas and so on, and while I can't be sure -- it's not like I've read every saga -- the one Nina describes in the first section doesn' ...more
Patti's Book Nook
Sarah Moss is a popular author among the British bookish YouTubers I watch. I wanted to start with her first novel and work my way to her latest- The Tidal Zone. I wasn't a huge fan of the multiple perspectives. I understand how this form would make sense for the narrative, but it felt haphazard and left me disconnected. Two voices were much stronger than the rest- Nina's and Ruth's- so I hated sparing more of them for the other's descriptions.
This novel was unusual- equal parts historical fi
...more
Sam
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To start with I wasn't hugely enamoured with this book, I found the first narrator, Nina, irritating and far too self absorbed (the type of person that is guaranteed to get nothing but sarcasm from me). But I was so intrigued by the premise of the book (and I am one of those who just has to finish a book once it's started) that I kept reading, and I am so glad I did. Once I got past Nina's epic flaws and focused on the story and what it meant for those on the dig, I couldn't help but keep readin ...more
Liisa
Sep 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, my-read-books
Had Cold Earth been my first encounter with Sarah Moss, I would have thought that it has a lot of potential and waited eagerly for her later publications. However, this was the last one of hers I had to read and I’ve already seen that potential evolving into something spectacular (=especially The Tidal Zone). Compared to the others, Cold Earth ended up being quite meh. The story isn’t all too cohesive, the execution is lacking and the text keeps wandering to insignificant subjects, although the ...more
Richard Moss
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I started Cold Earth in a rare burst of British summer heat. I may be wilfully perverse but actually I enjoy reading icy books in summer, and sunny novels in winter.

Cold Earth certainly had a chilling effect on me - but all in a good way.

This debut novel is set in Greenland, as six archaeologists arrive to dig an old Norse settlement.

They have left behind families and friends, but also growing concerns about a bird flu style virus that may be beginning to get a deadly grip on the globe.

The novel
...more
Flapper72
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I've read some Sarah Moss books before and have enjoyed them but wouldn't say I'm her biggest fan. Sometimes I find the storyline rather bizarre and don't feel it really gets anywhere. Just a bit strange. Anyway, this book is meant to be about a group of people on Greenland whilst a plague is affecting the rest of the world but, due to being extremely isolated, they have little contact with the outside world so don't actually know if, well, that outside world continues to exist. I'm not really s ...more
Jane
Apr 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: borrowed
An intriguing concept:

A group of six archaeologists in Greenland seeking traces of lost Viking settlements. They are isolated, but of course they have modern equipment and communications.

They are a mismatched group, and there are tensions from the start.

News reaches them that a major epidemic is moving across the northern hemisphere. And then communications begin to fail.

Will they survive? Will ever see their homes again? And, if they do, what will they find?

The story unfolds in six narratives.
...more
Maggie James
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
A very intriguing read, and impressive given that's it's Sarah Moss's debut novel. Think Stephen King meets William Golding. It's part horror/supernatural, part dystopia, with rapidly degenerating relationships taking centre stage on an archaeology dig in Greenland. Things go bump in the night as food supplies run low and morale sinks even lower amongst the team. Meanwhile, news filters through to them of a rapidly spreading pandemic that may affect their ability to return home.

The book is writt
...more
Samantha Allen
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: mfa-faculty
I enjoyed reading this book, but I have a few criticisms.

First of all... Well, if you're going to have American characters as narrators writing letters home to their families, then it seems to me that you absolutely need to have the slang right. Maybe it's just that they didn't put out a US version and didn't want UK readers to get confused. But when you've got a character who is supposed to be from Minnesota writing about using a "torch" instead of a "flashlight", it just draws a lot of attent
...more
Carly
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of the most original novels I've read this year. A heady mix. A ghost story with an archaeological perspective. A small group isolated while on an archaeological dig in Greenland as a virus rips through the rest of the earth, killing huge swaths of people and leaving the group stuck in Greenland, cut off from all contact with the rest of the world, not knowing if they will be rescued or left to freeze to death as the arctic winter approaches and their supplies run low. Did I mention it's set ...more
Anna
This is the penultimate book of my fifteen novels found by keyword searching ‘dystopia’ in the library catalogue. And guess what? Like 75% of the others, it isn’t a dystopia! I would, however, classify it as ominously apocalyptic, with supernatural undertones. The setup is a bunch of PhD students going on an isolated archeological dig. They are all somewhat awkward and abrasive characters, which felt extremely realistic as doing a PhD certainly brought out the worst in me. It made the first pers ...more
Laura Spira
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first book by Sarah Moss that I read was "Names for the Sea", a memoir about living in Iceland. I read it while I was on a cruise that visited Iceland and I really enjoyed it. I was delighted to discover that she had written fiction and have read all her novels. This was her first and I am now rather sad that I'll have to wait for another.

It's a suspenseful story about archeologists working in Greenland. Slightly reminiscent of Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway novels and of Hannah Kent's "Buria
...more
Carol
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such an original debut novel. 6 young archaeologists are researching the demise of Norse people who settled intermittently in Medieval Western Greenland, in a bid to find a better life. Terrific combination of atmosphere and some very thoroughly developed characters, build real tension. At first Nina, fan of Victorian fiction is the only nervous one nervous and convinced that disturbing the skeletons, causes memorial cairns to suddenly appear. As the summer dig progresses, the weather becomes in ...more
Paige
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read the first chapter of this book on a plane on the way home from a four day hike and for whatever reason, it was not my cup of tea that day. I put the book down for almost two months and then picked it up again, and read the entire thing in one sitting.
I loved it. It is creepy without being scary, the characters have depth and aren't annoying. Except Nina, who is perhaps meant to be a little annoying. The scenery, syntax and characterisation were all delightful. Moss' writing style had me
...more
Dustin
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Dustin by: Kennedy Gordon
*This review contains spoilers*

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wanted to read this book but I was also able to read it as a final project for my Archaeology class. Because I read this book both for an assignment and for pleasure, I may be too critical.

This book is written as letters home to loved-ones from six archaeologists on a summer-long dig in Greenland. Each chapter is written in the perspective of a different Archaeologist– Nina, Ruth, Jim, Catriona, Yianni, Ben, finishing again w
...more
Vicky
Around the World = Greenland.

I really wanted to like this book much more that I actually did. It had many elements that I enjoyed: the remote setting in Western Greenland; the looming presence of the late Norse settlers; the creeping uncertainty of a pandemic erasing the world they left behind, somewhat reminiscent of Nevil Shute's On the Beach; and the grim finality as the group compose what may their last letters home. This could have been a truly chilling horror story.

However, these points we
...more
Ryan
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
There are times when the ratings available don't really work well. By 3 stars, I mean that it was very readable but I'm not sure I liked it.

The writing is lovely - there are any number of wonderful sentences describing the beauty and starkness of Greenland, the awkwardness of social interaction, the pain of loss.

The story is...well, I am still working on that. After finishing the book I went out and read some reviews simply to try and figure out what I'd just read. The story is told by the cha
...more
Hedwig Sondervan
Dec 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amanda
May 05, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was written by a British woman who has clearly never been to America. Americans say "flashlight," not "torch;" "boxers," not "shorts;" "hanging out," not "hanging about." I don't think I've ever heard someone on this side of the Atlantic say, "shall we be getting on, then?" and I would probably raise an eyebrow at them if I did. Her descriptions of the American characters in the story, especially when she is writing from their perspectives, is extremely shallow and clearly unresearched ...more
Ricardo
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
this one was a spontaneous pick from a library shelf!
I didn't expect much of it, the storyline sounded "bubblegummy" enough for a fun quick read. It was exactly that, plus a very engaging read, even with some frustrations and eye-rolls here and there. I really enjoyed it!

I have the impression the novel might've needed some more time and work. It is divided in six different narrators but there aren't really six different voices, it could all be the same narrator writing for six people. Themes are
...more
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Sarah Moss is the award-winning author of six novels: Cold Earth, Night Waking, selected for the Fiction Uncovered Award in 2011, Bodies of Light, Signs for Lost Children and The Tidal Zone, all shortlisted for the prestigious Wellcome Prize, and her new book Ghost Wall, out in September 2018.

She has also written a memoir of her year living in Iceland, Names for the Sea, which was shortlisted for
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“You told me the dead live on as long as people remember them, that love keeps the dead alive, but that's not true. Love plus death equals nothing at all. Death kills, you know, that's the truth that puts you out of a job. There's no virtual James in my head. What lives on is my memory, which is part of me and not him. My memory cannot surprise me, call me in the middle of the afternoon with an explicit request for the evening, smile when I wake him with croissants on Sunday mornings. He is ash and bone, James. Gone.” 0 likes
“I'm still broken, aren't I? I guess I'm beginning to realise that I won't get over it. Death doesn't get better. Maybe life does.” 0 likes
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