Fast Paradise by Eric Stephen Mayer

“A fascinating novel that provocatively animates the tendrils that connect past and present . . . mesmerizing . . . dramatically engaging as it is philosophically thoughtful . . . The author’s command of the geography of the Arctic, and the indigenous peoples who inhabit it, is masterly.”
—Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus Reviews Verdict for Fast Paradise by Eric Mayer

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Two summer treks across the High Arctic separated by a millennium.

The first: Qaya, a young Inuit girl in the year 1000, making her coming of age journey to hunt the great polar bear, Nannuraluk.

The second: 1963 college archaeology students on a dig 500 miles from the North Pole with their professor, hoping to uncover and preserve lost secrets of early Inuit and their encounters with Norse explorers.

What starts as a routine archaeology expedition turns spiritual, if not supernatural, when the students uncover carvings in animal skin depicting the story of this young Inuit as she travels across the forbidding—and foreboding—landscape. Slowly they start to decipher the ancient language Qaya uses to carve her animal skins; the language of prehistoric Nannurmiut, People of the Bear.

The students are determined to retrace the young woman’s steps to find out what happened to her. Breaking away from their professor’s orderly dig site, they set off on their own journey across unmapped country as stark and beautiful as it was for Qaya—and as menacing and indifferent as on the first Day of Creation.

Will they survive the frozen wilderness and discover what happened to Qaya, or will her legacy be lost for another thousand years? Beautifully penned and meticulously researched, Eric Mayer combines decades of studying prehistoric Inuit and learning from those who have explored the High Arctic, with a poetic imagination of what it would be like to come of age in the first millennium in a place where polar bears ruled the world. 

The Beaver
Cover of Fast Paradise

What changed when Qaya spoke her words?

What changed was like some slightest movement in the stars from one day to the next,
where now but not before,
in just that place, and just that height above the land,
announce the seasons turn where just before said nothing.
Changed nor chance of going back,
however small a thing or few eyes notice.
What changed was like the wind, ikulliaktuq however calm:
where not one single flower petal nor more or less disturbed,
nor cotton grass the more to bend;
announces with the slightest shift to south or else to north
some consequence beyond men’s reach.
Nor see at all nor feel beyond some tiny hairs upon an ear,
whose good fortune wears no parka hood just then.

Eric Mayer