The author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation returns with an exploration of Greenland and its transformation from being one of the planet's last frontiers to its largest laboratory, tracing risky adventures on the island during the early 20th century to contemporary missions by scientists studying climate change.
... fascinating and encyclopedic ... prose so lucid it’s easy to overlook its elegance ... Gertner manages a magic trick, transforming his hybrid book from one of physical to intellectual adventure. For though the Arctic journeys become boring tractor rides and the scientists are, alas, less memorable than the roguish adventurers, the drama of discovery skates the narrative forward ... the book completes its last metamorphosis, from a scientific history into a submission to the ever-growing canon of climate change literature ... But unlike other recent books that have captured the public’s attention with excruciating play-by-plays of how the environmental apocalypse will go down or poetic laments for the ailing natural world, Gertner invests his writerly energies less in describing what is happening to Greenland’s ice than to how we know it ... By the end of the book, his approach appealed to me for several reasons, most notably because it impressed on me like nothing I’ve read before how hard-earned climate change facts are ... This is a book about...Gertner’s obsession. I mean that as a compliment, for despite the book’s composure, it is this wild and viral obsession that is the most compelling thing about it.
... [an] engrossing new book ... scientific mysteries and discoveries become, in Gertner’s hands, part of a geological detective story. Facts are hard-won prizes that fascinate and dismay, and often point to further intrigue. By writing this sort of adventure-history, Gertner sidesteps the political debates and polemics that have come to characterize current conversations about a changing climate. The Ice of the End of the World is still devastatingly clear in describing how Greenland’s ice sheet is melting, and the broader implications of that change.
... a fascinating account ... Gertner writes with verve and acuity, and his prose is at times lyrical ... But even though his narration of the expeditions is packed with absorbing detail, it’s hard to avoid an element of drudgery midway through the book’s first half, because by then, the dangers posed by the harsh environment start to seem less novel. There were times when I wished, for the book’s sake, that the English language had more words to describe ice. Fortunately, Gertner picks up the pace again in the second half, telling the scientific story without giving readers an excuse to stop reading—except perhaps to ponder the fate of the planet.