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Ice Station    by Matt Reilly order for
Ice Station
by Matt Reilly
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Odd things are happening at Wilkes Station, a U.S. base at the edge of one of the last frontiers on Earth, the continent of Antarctica. Contact was lost with a team of divers exploring 3000 feet below the ice - in their last transmission, they claimed to have found a spaceship. At the same time, one of the scientists murdered another by injecting him with (are you ready for it?) drain cleaner fluid.

The hero of the story is Lieutenant Shane Schofield (Scarecrow), who leads a legendary Marine Corps Recon Unit. By unlucky chance they had been in the Ross Sea and were dispatched to help. Soon after they arrive, so does a French hovercraft with a group of French scientists from the nearby d'Urville Station. At which point the reader is launched on a wild and improbable roller coaster of a tale.

Reilly's story reminded me of Maclean's Ice Station Zebra in more than the titles and chilly settings. The protagonists in both cases are supermen with amazing physical stamina and incredible luck. But Reilly's Ice Station takes it to extremes. Not only did Schofield recover from being blinded in the past, but he dies briefly during this story, and continues on after resuscitation as if nothing has happened.

Mr. Reilly not only asks his readers to suspend their disbelief, but requires them to sink it to the depths of the Antarctic Ocean. Each chapter is a cliffhanger, and the author's techniques in rescuing Scarecrow and his group grow less likely each time. But like the old Saturday morning movies I used to watch as a child, if you can lose your logic for a while, it's a lot of fun.

Though I could deal with the improbability of the story, I had a lot more difficulty digesting the characterization. At odds with the Marines are the French commandos and British SAS. But while the Marines, aside from the odd traitor in their midst, are all good guys ready to sacrifice themselves at the drop of a Maghook for the cute little girl Kirsty, the European military types are sadistic brutes primed to slaughter civilians and allied soldiers and to enjoy the process. Really, the most appealing person in this story is Kirsty's pet seal Wendy.

Having said all that, Ice Station is an addictive, escapist read full of mysteries, monsters and military mayhem. If you liked Alistair Maclean's books or enjoy the latest James Bond or Mission Impossible, then slide down the ice tunnels into this story ... but leave your common sense on the surface, it will get annihilated down there!

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