Author and visual artist Rebecca Hunt was so dedicated to capturing the sweeping, terrifying landscape of the Antarctic correctly in her second novel, “Everland” (Europa), she took part in an expeditionary program aboard a traditional sailing vessel to the High Arctic. If her remarkable novel is any indication, her trip was well worth the effort.
“Everland” is two stories that echo one another so beautifully they nearly become one haunting expedition: the first is the 1913 inaugural voyage to Everland Island led by Napps, a proven, though often misunderstood, explorer. His team includes Millet-Bass, an ox of a man known for his brawn not his brain, and Dinners, a scientist with no field experience.
Things go horrifyingly wrong from the start and their expedition becomes the stuff of legend thanks to a book written by their ship’s captain. More out of nostalgia than a need for research, a new trip to Everland is launched in 2012, also with a team of just three: Decker, a proven researcher; Jess, an unnaturally steady field hand; and Brix, an untested scientist.
Told in short, tight chapters with beautifully efficient prose, “Everland” moves back and forth between the two expeditions, showcasing how the determinant of both teams was not the cruelty of nature but hubris — and fear of leaving an unflattering legacy. It’s a remarkable, terrifying, physiological thriller full of natural description so accurate you’ll check your face for frostbite.
However, it’s not just the physical toils that resonate, but Hunt’s remarkable care in portraying the mental anguish such an expedition takes on each of the members: leaving individual identity behind for the sake of the success of the group. “Our fortunes can’t be separated, yet you choose to act as if any loss is yours alone,” Napps cries as one of his men runs into the sea.
A frightfully accurate portrait of men and women pushed to the brink of physical and mental anguish, “Everland” is a work that hits like a sudden winter storm, striking you breathless with its power, horror, and beauty.