Night Shift (Fiction Without Frontiers)
“The outcome of this novel leaves the reader hanging, demanding more. As the first of a proposed trilogy, Night Shift whets the appetite for what comes next.”
It’s the near-future. Natural resources are running out. An all-powerful entity called the Company controls most of the world. Currently, Australis, a settlement in Antarctica is drilling the frozen depths for more oil reserves while scientists project a possible series of greenhouses hydroponically growing food for the masses.
McCarthy, head of security for Australis has requested a transfer. He’s been having migraines, suffering insomnia, and when he does sleep, he sleepwalks. Chosen to replace him is Anders Norveld.
The committee recommending Anders is well aware of his background. Child of a revolutionary who fought the Company and lost, half-orphaned Anders is raised by the Company while his father serves a prison term.
Now this slightly maladjusted loner is dropped into the isolation of the polar outpost.
Anders arrives a few days before the beginning of the so-called night shift, when the sun doesn’t shine on Antarctica for six months.
“It was just gray. Shapeless mounds drawn in nothing colors, for miles and miles in every direction. For the next six months, this forgotten land was to be my home. Only twelve other people within a thousand miles. I was the thirteenth man.”
Immediately Anders is met with unreasonable hostility. He’s told he isn’t wanted, isn’t needed. The head of the settlement is De Villiers, a man whose word is law. He allows many things against company policy, such as growing pot and distilling wine. Look the other way, Anders is told, and you’ll get along fine.
Shortly thereafter, things reveal themselves to be anything but fine. The communications building is leveled by an avalanche. “I couldn’t see the comms building because it wasn’t there anymore. I couldn’t see the comms building because it was beneath my feet.”
Now they have no way to get in touch with the base in Tierra del Fuego.
Anders is blamed. It has to be his fault. Everything was going well until he arrived. The crew blocks his attempts at an investigation though he tries to reason with them.
“You can suspend me. You can lock me in my room, but if someone on this base is a saboteur you need to find out who it is. I’m Chief of Security. Who else is going to do the job?”
“Keep out of the way, Norveldt.”
“I can’t do that.”
De Villiers’ nostrils flared. “I can see we’re going to have more trouble with our security chief. You’re as pathetic as your report said.”
Anders begins to suffer odd dreams, little snatches of memory, mimicking the symptoms McCarthy complained of.
When de Villiers dies after his protective warm-suit is sabotaged, the others turn against Anders.
“A kind of solidarity seemed to have grown around the crew. No one, not a single one of them spoke up for me or gave me a look of silent support. No doubt who was in and who was out.”
When more destruction occurs and the group faces an antarctic winter with no heat and a dwindling food supply, the beseiged security chief frantically begins his solitary investigation.
Discovery of the saboteur may not save their lives, but at least he’ll be vindicated.
What he finds isn’t what he expects, however. He doesn’t want to believe it and the others are also reluctant to accept his findings. Facts are facts and the killer’s identity is irrefutable, and what good does it do, since they can’t tell anyone?
With a taste of Agatha Christie’s’ The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and more than a suggestion of The Manchurian Candidate, Robin Triggs’ Night Shift is a chilling—no pun intended—story.
Using two of Man’s greatest fears, isolation and loss of identity, he has penned a tale playing heavily on both these universal phobias. Other than outer space, what worse place than an icy wasteland to have a murder occur, to be stranded with no way to call for help, while the threat of freezing or starving to death looms? “In space, no one can hear you scream.” Neither can they in the frozen wasteland of Antarctica.
Not much background to the story is given as to time or what is happening in the outside world. All the reader has to go on are Anders’ references to events through his own experience and inferences made from the others’ speech. All that exists is Australis and its 11 inhabitants, struggling to survive the night shift and discover who is trying to destroy the base.
Though the reader may at first refuse to believe Anders’ theory of the killer’s identity, he will soon see, as do the others that it’s the only logical answer, unbelievable as it is. He will also applaud Anders’ bravery in offering it.
The outcome of this novel leaves the reader hanging, while at the same time, demanding more. As the first of a proposed trilogy, Night Shift whets the appetite for what comes next.