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Book Review: The Third Thaw

The Third Thaw. Karl J. Hanson. E.L. Marker, an imprint of WiDo Publishing, August 22, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 314 pages.

Reviewed by Kelly Fumiko Weiss. 

The Third Thaw, the new science fiction novel from Karl J. Hansen,  poses the question: what could the human race feasibly do if it was forced to populate another planet? Hanson takes the reader along for the ride as he intricately maps out how he thinks it could happen—what technologies would be needed, what engineering tools would be used, what infrastructure would be mandatory for human survival—and explains to the reader his thought process for each element. The main thrust of his design is the use of embryos that will be ‘thawed’ and grown on a new planet through the aid of machines and artificial intelligence. 

As Hanson focuses on the hard science behind the story, it’s the people he depicts that I found most compelling. But I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about the character Horst and how his ability to see past his assigned field of study influenced those around him. I wanted to know more about how Adam’s connection to his virtual family drove decisions he may have made with his own. I wanted to know more about the emotional toil of the people back on Earth who planned this mission and what it was like for them to design a future 80,000 years out. These human questions kept me reading but were never fully answered. 

Unlike other books that dive into the emotional drama of each dangerous and/or life-altering situation and live in that space, the people in this book had to keep going, keep problem solving, and think about what was next. Therefore, the reader did, too. While Hanson’s compositional style was sometimes too expositional for me, I found his ability to jump forward in the story, sometimes years at a time, a refreshing take on story-building. A lot of what he left out may not actually matter. 

The events he chose to include were fascinating. Discovering a way around a waterfall saved a whole cohort of people. Figuring out how to fight off indigenous animals allowed them to complete their journey. Assessing the root purpose of a supercomputer allowed for the advancement of technology on their new home planet. The events he chose to depict were the ones that saved humanity from extinction and the technology-based solutions he used to carry them out were incredibly creative. 

The Third Thaw was clearly a labor of love for Hanson. He imbued the book with his own personal knowledge and interests. His love of human solutions to difficult problems shone through on every page. Ultimately, I liked this book because I could tell how much fun Hanson had writing it and it was constantly piquing my curiosity in unpredictable ways. There is no way a reader would be able to start this book and know how it ends. And that. in and of itself, is a great accomplishment. 


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