Reviewed by Dave Jeffery
In Ash Hartwell’s novel, the passengers of the ill-fated Titanic find themselves having to contend with more than just the small prospect of drowning beneath the icy waters of the North Atlantic. An infected primate, won in a last-minute wager, is unwittingly brought on board, and unleashes a deadline virus upon the unsuspecting passenger list.
Hartwell uses half of the book to build the tension, the detailed descriptions of the Titanic’s infrastructure – from the luxury on offer in First Class to the grease and coal-blackened boiler rooms – adds a level realism that seduces the reader. Within this carefully crafted landscape, colourful characters move through a carefully plotted tale, as several story threads weave together the central conceit, as the portentously named Pandora the monkey escapes and begins spreading his latent disease. It is testament to the writer that, as the very human stories unfold, it becomes easy to forget that the people within them are on board the infamously doomed vessel. Adding the names of real crew and passengers with their fictitious counterparts helps to effectively fuse fact and fiction.
When things finally fall apart and the virus runs rampant, the bloodletting is frequent and ferocious. Hartwell describes evisceration and dismemberment with the same level of detail and enthusiasm as the furnishings aboard the ship itself. The final third of the novel rattles along, the passengers battling to survive in the confines of the ship, the infected a formidable, insatiable foe.
There are some pretty slick twists, and the ending is well executed. One minor gripe is two significant characters fall to the scourge almost as an aside, and this reviewer felt they deserved a little more.
Overall, Tip of the Iceberg is a tightly plotted, solid read and is recommended for those looking for well researched, well written yarn that stays afloat in a sea of zombie fiction.