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By Steven Heighton

“A triumph of a novel. To contain this savage, beautiful tale into a few mere paragraphs is to do it an injustice. It is to be savoured, packed to the rafters with sumptuous language, sweeping vistas, contained fury, sorrow and unrequited love, together with clashing wills, the rise of empires and a backdrop vividly played out by both the bleak Arctic and the Mexican mesas… Steven Heighton has pulled off a masterpiece.”
Daily Express 


Heighton_AfterlandsA triumph of storytelling from one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers–a gripping novel that explores the themes of human complicity in allegiance and betrayal, and the sacrifices that are demanded in order to survive.

In 1871, the US government sent out an expedition to plant the American flag at the North Pole. But the voyage floundered, and half of the survivors–nineteen in all–were cast adrift on an ice floe off Ellesmere Island. Steven Heighton has taken this piece of history and fashioned a novel that follows the stories of three of the participants over the six month ordeal and the shadows it casts over the rest of their lives: Roland Kruger, a rebellious German seaman, who having abandoned one nation finds another forced on him when nationalistic lines are drawn on the ice floe; American George Tyson, ranking officer among the survivors, whose attempts to keep order and his desire for recognition are undermined by his insecurity and destroyed faith; and Tukulito, called Hannah, an Inuit interpreter torn between the traditions of her people and the hierarchy of her adopted culture.

An epic that moves between the Canadian Arctic, the United States and Mexico, Afterlands tells a tale of unrequited love and unsettled scores, and examines the ultimate cost of loyalty in an age of emerging nationalisms.

“A novel of big ideas and beautiful language. … [Heighton] offers quiet bits of dazzle in perfect moderation. …This is a magnificent novel about the wreckage of history–both the history that happens to us and the versions of it we create.”
The New York Times Book Review

“This is a big, ambitious, literary adventure tale full of blood, gristle and soul. Afterlands conveys in stark yet beautiful prose the awful reality of what happens both on the ice and in men’s souls.”
The Guardian

“Extremely accomplished… Its characters are fully drawn, brilliantly voiced and very flawed. Both epic and subtle, it combines genuine Arctic adventure with a slow-burning love story; and contrasts long extracts from Tyson’s self-important account with a Conradian enquiry into man’s dark heart.”
Independent on Sunday (Five-star review)

“Skillfully constructed, beautifully written, told with a detachment that will put the reader in mind of Graham Greene,Afterlands is a superior example of a rare breed: the literary adventure story.”
The Washington Post

“No one writes about textures and the feel, the substance of things like this Canadian author: the soft fudgeiness of an igloo wall warmed by a seal-fat lantern, the press of a thickly wadded fur jacket… Heighton, who is also a poet, makes you feel the press and urgency of this adventure by words not deeds. A deep and moving tragedy that places the fate of an Eskimo woman and her child dead centre of a male power struggle that plays itself out in petty squabbles and shows of vanity upon the ice,Afterlands is the great unsung book of 2006.”
Scotland on Sunday

“Heighton is ambitious in many of the ways that Joseph Conrad was ambitious… Like Conrad and unlike any of the other poet-novelists in this country—even Ondaatje—Heighton is shockingly real and character-driven even when he’s being his most mannered. This is a big, wide, deep book… I can hardly wait to give it a slower, closer, more intense reading.”
The Globe and Mail

“[Heighton’s] heroes recall Graham Greene’s . . . his description of the drama of survival on the ice is so penetrating that even readers sitting warm and dry will feel the frost.”
Berliner Literaturkritik

“Masterfully composed . . . At the same time a breathtaking thriller and a demanding, high-literary novel . . . A grand novel about love, ideals, and survival . . . A book that one doesn’t forget. A very Canadian masterwork.”
Deutschlandradio Kultur

“A magnificent adventure novel about love, betrayal, and the things people are capable of in extremity.”
Hamburger Morgenpost

“Breathtaking . . . An ingenious psychological study . . . A vivid, virtuoso novel . . . ideal for long winter evenings.”
Neun 7

“Sweeps from the north to the south, from the ice to the rainforest, [and is] imaginative and convincing.”
Handelsblatt (Dusseldorf)

“Afterlands is a book to rave about . . . both a demanding thriller [and] a wonderful parable about humanity and chance. . . . [The reader] is left breathless . . . . combines action and thoughtfulness [with] lyric beauty.”
Lausitzer Rundschau

“Compelling psychological drama . . . A gripping examination of human behaviour in extremis.”
Neue Zurcher Zeitung (Switzerland)

“A story of conflict and winter survival, impressively and affectingly written.”


Knopf Canada, Canada, Fall 2005

Houghton Mifflin, US, Spring 2006

Hamish Hamilton, UK, Spring 2006

Ambo Anthos, Holland, Fall 2006

Rowohlt, Germany, Fall 2007


A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

Chosen as one of the Best Books of the Year by Scotland on Sunday, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen, the Vancouver Province, and the Vancouver Sun

A Scotland on Sunday pick of 2007

An Independent Best Book of 2007

Finalist for the Evergreen Award

Included in 100 Must-Read Historical Novels, Nick Rennison (Bloomsbury, 2010)

Other Books by Steven Heighton