I plan on living to a ripe old age and I have formulated a few
rules to accomplish this. I stay out of planes if at all possible
and I never, never, never, get in a boat, ship, etc. And here I am.
I'm really not interested in rocks, either. Five minutes into
college geology and strata and sediment layers and the like, and my
eyes glaze over. Accordingly, you might think that the last thing I
would want to do would be to spend several hours reading a book in
which about half of it --- a really scary half --- takes place at
sea, and about 100 per cent of it involves geology. But that's what
I did this past weekend with THE ICE LIMIT, the latest
collaboration between Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.
These guys started off good. They're probably best known for RELIC,
which was made into a scary movie. Their last few books haven't
necessarily been great movie material, but they've been great
books. And THE ICE LIMIT absolutely, resolutely kicks heinie all
over the place.
There are any number of reasons for this. Preston and Child, first
of all, meticulously research whatever subject they're dealing
with, whether it be archeology, anthropology, even the dreaded
geology. But then they explain the topic so well that even a
chowderhead like me not only understands it but also sits up and
takes notice. Then they plot out their story so well that the
reader never feels like the book has been highjacked by the
hardware. Now, there are some writers, some very good writers, who
take these steps as well, but P & C go one better. They throw
in a whole bunch of really interesting characters, characters that
you're going to care about.
Characters that you care about + interesting explanations of
difficult topics + great storylines = great books = THE ICE
THE ICE LIMIT begins with the discovery of a gigantic meteorite,
the biggest ever found, entombed in an island off the coast of
Chile for millions of years. This attracts the attention of Palmer
Lloyd, a billionaire collector of one-of-a-kind items. Lloyd
recruits Eli Glinn, president of Effective Engineering Solutions,
Inc., to move the meteorite from its resting spot to the United
States. It will be the heaviest object ever moved by mankind.
Glinn, inscrutable but driven, has a reputation for never, ever
failing. His foolproof method consists of calculating every
possibility, planning for each one, and then some. It is a method
he calls "double overage." He is always successful. But there are
several elements in play here: Moving the meteor isn't like picking
up a marble and putting it in a pocket; the expedition attracts the
unwelcome attention of a minor Chilean naval officer; the weather
gets just a bit nasty in that part of the world at times; and that
meteor, well, it doesn't really behave like a meteor. Glinn is
quite adept at pulling the expedition out of situations that would
get messed up beyond repair with anyone else at the helm. He does
this with careful planning and by refusing to rely on luck. But
luck, whether relied upon or not, sometimes runs out.
THE ICE LIMIT reads as if Preston and Child were writing while
channeling a collaboration of Kenneth Robeson, Robert Heinlein, and
Rod Serling. And they have the chutzpah to not even explain what
the heck the title means until the last quarter of the book. I love
it! A great book by two guys who are quietly becoming the joint
masters of the science-adventure novel. If you haven't read them
since RELIC you're cheating yourself.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011