(Legal disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of ´Reversal´ from the author, Jennifer Ellis.)
The polar research station our main characters Sasha and Soren are working at with other researchers is your (un-?)typical dysfunctional workplace where different people are thrown together to work at a common goal. Soren as the caretaker of the station runs the show, and he is a bit of a papa bear, making sure that everyone is aware of the dangers surrounding them. Polar bears have become more blood thirsty over the years so shooting lessons are essential, or certain reminders what it takes to live in the Arctic. Until the world goes temporary dark and everyone blind.
There are different timelines at work which makes reading slightly confusing, at a minimum challenging, and with the fast paced action I found it not always easy to keep track at what is happening right now, or where and when. The Arctic and Antarctica are suddenly connected and can be traversed via a mysterious mist (which is completely normal, right?) and south is north or west or east, depending on what the non-functioning GPS declares at any given moment.
The temporary blindness they all suffer from leads to the claustrophic feeling of being trapped in an environment where everything and everyone is hostile to the point of murder. The closed space that is the research station makes this feeling even more prominent until things turn off and the Arctic itself becomes the place of showdowns. Where the first part is a bit of a character study in how not to interact with eachother, the following doesn´t allow anyone to pause for a minute to take a breath. Jets are falling from the sky, craters open up unexpectely in the earth and then there are agressive polar bears. And penguins. And demons.
The demons like Ice or Paul, short for pollution (which admittely made me giggle like a little girl) make a strong appearance. However, since the climate change debate is already heated (pun intended), I feel his mocking of what humankind does everything wrong feels too much like lecturing from a well-meaning but overly zealous person. The four new (environmental) horseman of the apocalypse is nothing but genius, though.
Only the side characters like Amber or Edie seems more like background noises. I had a harder time to really feel anything for them and troubles actually picturing them in my head. They play their parts accordingly, sure, but I didn´t find them in any way all that interesting.
Bloody URLs in the snow, and the crazy rants of Dr Midnite included, whom I suspect is maybe the key to the mystery that are the different apocalyptic worlds that make up Apocalpyse Weird. A fun addition to this already crazy world is Helga, who is a bit like the homeless dude on the street who constantly chants ´the end is coming´. Harmless, a bit scary but also too odd to look away. Helga is the only real person Soren and Sasha can reach on their radio in desperate need of a rescue team who leads them out of the place they are trapped in. They are cut off from the outside world otherwise and what is happening anywhere else is not known to them, even they know something has gone completely wrong. The world as they know it has turned literally and figuratively upside down.
Luckily Jennifer Ellis tones down the science part as much as possible so there is no real background knowledge needed to fully understand the aspects of climate change, the reversal of the poles, or what is happening with the statosphere, which may cause havoc as well to the earth.
And this might be an unfair comparison, but The Red King creeped me out but also made me smile due the interactions of the survivors, Texocalypse Now left me horrified. Reversal on the other side made me anxious and feeling claustrophopic. Which probably means I do better with zombies and marauding gangs than with polar bears and penguins. Different as Reversal is, it is certainly a nice and perfect fit to the Apocalypse Weird world, and there is some evil masterplan behind everything. That´s for sure.
At times I was reminded of the Robert Ludlum action thrillers I was reading as a teenager. Just imagine Jason Bourne getting chased by demons, instead of terrorists, from the Arctic to the Antarctica while making contact with polar bears and penguins.
To mix real world science with a heavy appearance of the supernatural certainly takes ovaries, and Jennifer Ellis does it well. Not quite my usual reading so I feel slightly disconnected, still wanting to see where everything is heading even I have no idea what is going on here.