Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"What about you, why do you stay? I mean, you seem pretty smart too."
"Ha! Very kind of you. I came to one of the neighbouring remote communities as a nurse. After the term was up, I moved here, which is under British governance, not Canadian, and doesn't have the same initiative, so I found people who needed help, not provided by your country. There are always people in need, and that shouldn't be decided by where you are born. Plus I still don't feel ready to leave. I've come to like it here."
"You know, psychologists might say you're avoiding the real world."
"The real world? If you'd said modern world you might've had a point, but it doesn't get much more real than this."
"Fair point. Also, modern world or real, it's all the same world anyway."
"Netherton is still far too responsible for how this part of the world is now."
"Despite being long gone, I still feel his shadow casting darkness over everything here."
"But how do you kill a man who is already dead?"
"Not becoming him is a good start."
"I'm here to defend British interests, not to preach."
"Patriotism is just as dangerous as religion. It's all blind faith."
Indeed. Here's some harpoon-rattling jingoism from the Foreign Office, I mean publisher, to explain why and how our man up North, and I don't mean Yorkshire, is attempting to deal with the glacial pressures of the weight of history bearing squarely down on him. Not to mention the frosty attitude of the locals towards a Queen and country that doesn't care one snowflake about them, and her Majesty's man on the ground, well ice, who presents a rather convenient new target for their ire.
"Working for the British High Commission, Harrison Fleet is posted to a remote arctic island which is still, inexplicably, under British rule. As he struggles to understand why, and what interests he is protecting, Harrison learns just how much of the land and its community lies in the shadow cast by the outpost's founder.
Caught between hostile locals, the British Government, and an unforgiving physical environment, he begins dragging dark secrets into the light, unaware of the tragic repercussions they will cause. And help is very, very far away. Part noir, part historical mystery, British Ice explores the consequences of colonialism and the legacy of empire."
Poor Harrison Fleet, mild-mannered offspring of the highly regarded and decorated gunboat diplomat Sir Jonathan Fleet, whose many achievements included overseeing the forcible eviction of all the local inhabitants of an atoll in the Indian Ocean whilst Commissioner there. (Which of course reflective of actually happened to the Chagossians who were unceremoniously booted off Diego Garcia and the other islands of the Chagos Archipelago in the late 60s and early 70s, purely to provide the Americans with an uninhabited island for an air base as per an agreement signed in 1966
) How can he possibly be expected to measure up?
Harrison's been dispatched to the markedly unglamorous British Arctic Territories to take care of Her Majesty's interests after the disturbing disappearance of the previous Commissioner, but in fact the far flung frozen colony has a chequered past with diplomats going right back to the very first one who tried to bring the area under control. A certain cut-throat Captain Netherton, whose untimely death, along with all of his men and more than a fair few of the indigenous male population was put down to the legend of the Wendigo. At least that's what the locals are telling Harrison. The ones that will even speak to him that is
What a magnificent slow-melting mystery Owen BETWEEN THE BILLBOARDS & THE AUTHORING OF ARCHITECTURE Pomery has sculpted for us here! Is Harrison merely just another authoritarian flunky flailing about in the slippery social conditions he encounters or is he sufficiently his own man to attempt to escape his father's long wintery shadow and see what truths might finally be thawed out if he can just get someone, anyone, to warm to him even a little?
There's much excruciatingly accurate and pithy socio-political commentary to be found here, along with some very witty and also poignantly insightful dialogue, as whilst the persons, locales and events are noted to be nominally fictitious, it's all feels far too entirely credible and painfully plausible, even down to the braying public school civil service buffoon who has dispatched Harrison on his lonely mission
"Ah! Harrison, marvellous to see you. How was the Congo? Still an interesting little country?"
"It's a huge country, sir, with a huge amount of problems and
"Quite, quite. But you're fully recuperated and ready for your next assignment, I trust? The British Arctic Territories! I know, I know, it's not a glamorous assignment, but everyone has to do their stint and it's good to get it out of the way now, it's no place for an old chap like me. I promise you Bermuda or better next time!"
"That's not necessary. But I'm anxious about the rumours regarding the disappearance of the previous Commissioner and reports of unrest in the local community."
"It's nothing Harrison. Roberts was a good man, but he couldn't take the pace, simple as that. It's not for everyone this job. But you, you are made of sterner stuff. It's in the blood, son of the late great Sir Jonathan Fleet. One of the greatest ambassadors this country has ever seen, how can you fail with such lineage?
"Ha! You know what they used to say whenever there was trouble in one of the colonies, don't you?
""You don't need to send a single ship, you need to send a Fleet." Hahaha! Your father could certainly get things done."
"It came at a cost."
"It's a free market economy, son, and in the more remote parts of the world, you set your own rates, just like your father did. I'll see you in four years. Don't let us down now."
Artistically, this is perhaps a touch more delicate and detailed than his previous work BETWEEN THE BILLBOARDS & THE AUTHORING OF ARCHITECTURE but it is still very distinctly and magnificently Pomery, such as the vertical black parallel lines striated here and there for additional depth and shading to layer further texture onto the understandably muted and subdued atmospheric colour palette of pale blues and greys.
A very thoughtfully conceived and extremely well executed and also highly entertaining work, this neatly exposes certain distasteful aspects of the legacy of empire, whilst also providing a few necessary comforting crumbs of hope that there could possibly be some small caring cogs of individuals working for the greater good within and against Her Majesty's mighty machine.