REVIEW: "Ice Station", Matt Reilly
- BKICESTN.RVW 20001002
"Ice Station", Matt Reilly, 1999, 0-312-97123-0
%A Matt Reilly mattreilly@...
%C 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
%I St. Martin's Press
%O 212-674-5151 fax 800-288-2131 josephrinaldi@...
%P 513 p.
%T "Ice Station"
This is a thriller. An action thriller. A military action thriller.
Lots of action: the type of plot that the phrase "one darned thing
after another" was invented to describe. Lots of fancy new martial
gadgets. Military technology is not my field, so I have to trust the
author about all these wonderful weapons. But I don't have to trust
him too far, especially when so much else is flatly wrong.
There is an attack by a local pod of killer whales. Of course, there
is the problem that resident killer whales eat fish, and it is only
transient populations that go after large marine mammals. (Then
again, Reilly talks about orcas fifteen feet long weighing five tons,
so the characters in the story probably aren't in any great danger
from such rolly porkers. Or the thirty foot, seven tonner that must
be emaciated to the point of terminal illness.) The assaults seem to
be copied from other (fictional) accounts of shark attacks and bear
almost no resemblance to how orcas actually hunt or feed. (Orcas do
chase prey into shallow waters and even onto beaches, but I doubt it
would work that well on catwalks.)
Then again, if you were to try and distract a pod of transient killer
whales, a seal; even the sea-lion-like antarctic fur seal; would be a
poor choice. For orcas that do feed on marine mammals the seal might
almost be considered a favourite food. A small advantage in agility
is no match for an animal that can lift a seal, and an extra few
hundred pounds of water, several feet into the air with one flip of
The real howler, though, was when one character, as the monster was
about to chow down on him, felt a "rush of warm air" from its gaping
mouth. Whales, of course, breathe through their blowholes.
If you have sufficient flammable gas in an area to ignite, there is an
explosion, not nicely defined gouts of flame. But that probably
wouldn't be a problem with "highly flammable chlorofluorocarbons,"
mainly because chlorofluorocarbons aren't highly flammable. In fact
they were, and sometimes still are, used in fire extinguishers.
Did I say that I had to trust Reilly for the military technology? I
was wrong. A "nitrogen charge" about the size of a hand grenade might
hold a cup of liquid nitrogen, if you were lucky. Poured directly
onto some particularly fragile small item you might do some damage,
but splashed around a room (particularly by an explosive, and
therefore exothermic, charge) it wouldn't do much. A litre or two of
liquid nitrogen dumped out on the floor will merely do a very good job
of cleaning up gum wads and certain types of grease stains. Liquid
nitrogen wouldn't be a very good weapon in any case: it's very cold,
but it has a low specific heat. (An amount you can carry in your hand
would hardly be able to freeze several thousand tons of sea water.)
Splash it on exposed skin, and nothing much happens except that the
nitrogen evaporates. (I've put my hands in liquid nitrogen,
deliberately, and while I wouldn't want to leave them there
indefinitely, I'm still typing with all ten fingers.)
Oh, and liquid nitrogen is not "gooey." (And, Matt, I think the word
you were looking for is "epoxy.") Neither is it blue. (Although
liquid oxygen is a rather nice sapphire colour.)
Should I talk about hovercrafts with brake and accelerator pedals,
that suck air (and objects) *in* from underneath the skirt, and then
cartwheel like Indy cars with a blown tire when a fan goes bad? No,
if I do I'll get depressed. Same goes for aircraft that still have
fuel in the tanks after decades, and, without any indication that
construction was even finished in the first place, manage to work
right the first time they are fired up. And I have a considerable
problem with a fighter aircraft capable of carrying a nuclear power
plant having the range to make it from Antarctica to pretty much
Then there is a diving bell that seems to be permanently open on one
side while it goes up and down from the surface to 3,000 feet like a
yo-yo. Having an opening on the bottom isn't necessarily a problem,
but the changing pressure would mean that the airspace would shrink to
almost nothing (one percent of the original volume) on the way down.
If you pumped in more air (or gas mixture) to keep it clear at depth,
then it would be venting bubbles all the way up. However, there is
one great advantage to a diving bell that is open at the bottom: there
is no pressure differential, so it can't explode.
The abundance of solar flares does seem to correlate with increased
sunspot activity, but a flare is not a sunspot; quite the reverse.
The problematic "radiation" in solar flare activity is not
ultraviolet: if it were, it would take eight minutes to reach the
earth and then be gone. The major difficulty comes from heavily
ionized gas plasma. And that cannot be aimed with relative pinpoint
accuracy from 93 million miles away.
I was glad to see some recognition that email has to travel over the
same transmission paths as any other means of communication. It's too
bad that nobody ever thought of the fact that email can be queued up
and sent whenever an opportunity presents itself.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKICESTN.RVW 20001002
====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
Vizzini: You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most
famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia
- The Princess Bride
http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade