Wilson’s ICEFIRE is a doorstopper of a novel that many people poo poo because, heaven forbid, it has many words within it’s covers. I think it’s unfortunate because ICEFIRE really is a solid read. It was written in a different time period, the early 1980s. MTV was still in it’s infancy and hadn’t corrupted the brains of my generation to the point where we could only focus on something for only 2 seconds at a time. Books were thicker than the 180-220 page fast and furious reads we have now. Authors spent more time building atmosphere, creating three-dimensional characters, and using more than the bare minimum word usage to do it. I miss those days and sometimes long for a book that gets a little long winded, as long as it’s done well. And Wilson’s ICEFIRE certainly does.
An island in Lake Michigan is used as the building site of a maximum security mental hospital. The worst of the worst are brought here. Think of Alcatraz as a looney bin. Here we meet a team of doctors with differing opinions of how to treat the patients, which causes friction. We also meet the patients themselves and delve back into the deeds that brought them here. It also introduces us to some of the guards and their families. Wilson does this in a way that it gives us a clear backdrop of the characters and their surroundings. Then one stupid and greedy decision by a character sets off a chain reaction of events and all hell breaks loose. This is where ICEFIRE shines and I wish there was more of it.
Yes, there’s a lot of description, but there’s also plenty of action and this is where I disagree with some of the other reviewers. ICEFIRE does have a couple of periods where it bogs down, but it’s not meant to be a fast and furious paced read. If that’s what you’re looking for, why in the hell did you pick up a 500+ page book? Wilson’s writing style is smooth and easy. His characters are distinctly unique from each other and easy to remember. And the way he describes the subzero terrain of the island will make your toes ache. One of my only complaints is that why didn’t the characters have firearms of their own? I mean, living on a rugged remote island where hunting is part of how you eat, I’d think a few well loaded rifles in the protagonist’s cabins would’ve been a no-brainer. Other than that, I really enjoyed ICEFIRE, and it was everything I was wanting at the time – a nice, slow, descriptive read that I could immerse myself in.
4 1/2 Frostbitten Toes out of 5
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