Quick Review: COLD PEOPLE by Tom Rob Smith (Scribner)

SmithTR-ColdPeopleUSHCHumanity if forcibly removed to Antarctica, ceding control over the planet to an extraterrestrial force. It does… not go smoothly.

A suspenseful and fast-paced novel about an Antarctic colony of global apocalypse survivors seeking to reinvent civilization under the most extreme conditions imaginable.

The world has fallen. Without warning, a mysterious and omnipotent force has claimed the planet for their own. There are no negotiations, no demands, no reasons given for their actions. All they have is a message: humanity has thirty days to reach the one place on Earth where they will be allowed to exist… Antarctica.

Cold People follows the perilous journeys of a handful of those who endure the frantic exodus to the most extreme environment on the planet. But their goal is not merely to survive the present. Because as they cling to life on the ice, the remnants of their past swept away, they must also confront the urgent challenge: can they change and evolve rapidly enough to ensure humanity’s future? Can they build a new society in the sub-zero cold?

A gripping, fast-moving survival thriller, this is the first novel that I’ve read by Tom Rob Smith. It certainly won’t be my last. I really enjoyed this gripping, icy thriller.

I wasn’t actually sure what to expect from Cold People. The synopsis had caught my attention, and I started reading it expecting something cool and a little bit weird. Which is ultimately exactly what I got: the novel starts before the forced-migration of humanity to the bleakest, least-hospitable place on Earth. Smith does an excellent job introducing us to two of the main characters at the start, and through their eyes we see the end of humanity’s dominance of the planet. It’s very well done, gripping, and cinematic. (I also happened to read it during an extreme cold snap, here in Toronto, which felt rather fitting…) The author doesn’t spend much time at all exploring who the otherworldly force is, why they are doing what they are doing, nor how. This isn’t the thrust of the novel: humanity’s ability to survive (or not) is at the core of this story, and Smith does a great job of staying focused on what the survivors are doing. I enjoyed the mystery that remained for what was going on elsewhere on the planet.

SmithTR-ColdPeopleUKHCSmith’s characters are very well drawn. The novel is split into few perspectives, each of which brings something unique and interesting to the story. (I’m not going to go into too much detail, as some of the POV shifts come with spoilers.) We learn a lot about the changes that have been forced upon the remaining humans, as they struggle to adapt to multiple new challenges: the end of industry, the near-cessation of science and technology, and of course the extreme cold. What can be done to ensure the future of humanity? Which ethical standards are going to be victims to necessity? All the while, the survivors are confronted with situations (at multiple stages) that force them to decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to ensure the continued survival of their loved ones. The novel shifts forward a couple of times, which also keeps the story moving nicely.

The author’s prose is excellent throughout, and there are plenty of scenes that felt cinematic — he has a gift for bringing characters and places to life on the page. Even the stranger elements of the story were described brilliantly, sometimes horrifically. Reading Cold People broke a bit of a slump I’d being going through, and I regretted having to put the book down whenever work, etc., intruded on my reading time.

I think a lot of people are going to enjoy this, especially fans of techno thrillers and survival thrillers. I’m really looking forward to reading whatever Smith writes next, as well as going back to catch up on his backlist.

Definitely recommended.


Tom Rob Smith’s Cold People is out now, published by Scribner in North America and Simon & Schuster in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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