Released on 07.23.2003
Carved into a moving island of ice twice the siz e of the United States, Ice Station Grendel has been abandoned for more than seventy years. The twisted brainchild of the finest minds of the former Soviet Union, it was designed to be inaccessible and virtually invisible.
But an American undersea research vessel has inadvertently pulled too close - and something has been sighted moving inside the allegedly deserted facility, something whose survival defies every natural law. And now, as scientists, soldiers, intelligence operatives, and unsuspecting civilians are drawn into Grendel's lethal vortex, the most extreme measures possible will be undertaken to protect its dark mysteries - because the terrible truths locked behind submerged walls of ice and steel could end human life on Earth.
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April 6, 2:56 P.M.
Brooks Range, Alaska
Always respect Mother Nature ... especially when she weighs four hundred pounds and is guarding her baby.
Matthew Pike faced the grizzly from fifty yards away. The massive she-bear eyed him back, chuffing into the breeze. Her yearling cub nosed a blackberry briar, but it was too early in the season for berries. The cub was just playing in the brambles, oblivious to the six-foot-two Fish and Game officer standing, sweating, in the afternoon sun. But the youngster had little to fear when watched over by his mother. Her muscled bulk, yellowed teeth, and four-inch claws were protection enough.
Matt’s moist palm rested on his holstered canister of pepper spray. His other hand slowly shifted to the rifle slung on his shoulder. Don’t charge, sweetheart ... don’t make this day any worse than it already is. He’d had enough trouble with his own dogs earlier and had left them tethered back at his campsite.
As he watched, her ears slowly flattened to her skull. Her back legs bunched as she bounced a bit on her front legs. It was clear posturing, a stance meant to chase off any threat.
Matt held back a groan. How he wanted to run, but he knew to do so would only provoke the she-bear to chase him down. He risked taking a single slow step backward, careful to avoid the snap of a twig. He wore an old pair of moosehide boots, hand-sewn by his ex-wife, a skill learned from her Inuit father. Though they were three years divorced, Matt appreciated her skill now. The soft soles allowed him to tread quietly.
He continued his slow retreat.
Norma lly, when one encountered a bear in the wild, the best defense was loud noises: shouts, catcalls, whistles, anything to warn the normally reclusive predators away. But to stumble upon this sow and cub when topping a rise, running face-to-face into Ursus arctos horribilis, any sudden movement or noise could trigger the maternal beast to charge. Bear attacks numbered in the thousands each year in Alaska, including hundreds of fatalities. Just two months ago, he and a fellow warden had run a tributary of the Yukon River in kayaks, searching for two rafters reported late in returning home, only to discover their half-eaten remains.
So Matt knew bears. He knew to watch for fresh bear signs whenever hiking: unsettled dung, torn-up sod, clawed trunks of trees. He carried a bear whistle around his neck and pepper spray at his belt. And no one with any wits entered the Alaskan backcountry without a rifle. But as Matt had learned during his ten-year stint among the parks and lands of Alaska, out here the unexpected was commonplace. In a state bigger than Texas, with most of its lands accessible only by floatplane, the wildernesses of Alaska made the wild places of the lower states seem like nothing more than Disney theme parks: domesticated, crowded, commercialized. But here nature ruled in all its stark and brutal majesty.
Of course, right now, Matt was hoping for a break on the brutal part. He continued his cautious retreat. The she-bear kept her post. Then the small male cub – if you could call a hundred-and-fifty-pound ball of fur and muscle small – finally noticed the stranger nearby. It rose on its hind legs, looking at him. It shimmied and tossed its head about, male aggression made almost comical. Then it did the one thing Matt prayed it wouldn’t do. It dropped on all fours and loped toward him, more in play and curiosity than with any aggressive intent. But it was a deadly move nonetheless.
And despite the personal danger, Matt was loat h to do this. The grizzlies were his personal totem. They were the symbol of this country. With their numbers dwindling to less than twenty-five thousand, he could not bring himself to kill even one of them. In fact, he had come to Brooks Range on his own personal time to help in the cataloging and DNA mapping of the parkland’s population of awakening grizzlies, fresh out of winter’s blanket. He had been up here collecting samples from hair traps stationed throughout the remote areas of the park and freshening their foul-smelling scent lures when he found himself in this predicament.
But now Matt was faced with the choice of kill or be killed. The cub bounded merrily in his direction. His mother growled in warning – but Matt was not sure if she was talking to him or her cub. Either way, his retreat sped up, one foot fumbling behind the other. He shrugged his rifle into one hand and unholstered his pepper spray.
As he struggled with the spray’s flip top, a fierce growl rose behind him. Matt glanced over his shoulder. On the trail behind him, a dark shape raced at him, tail flagging in the air.
Matt’s eyes grew wide with recognition. “Bane! No!" The black dog pounded up the slope, hackles raised, a continual growl flowing from his throat...
The foregoing is excerpted from Ice Hunt by James Rollins. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.
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Despite the submarine cover art and the rather awkward title, this is no by-the-numbers military thriller: rather, it's a full-blooded, multidimensional adventure story set in the frozen wilds of Alaska, both atop the ice and underneath it. And it's one heck of a fun ride. Matthew Pike is a Fish and Game officer cataloging bear populations in the remote Brooks Range – but he's also an ex-Green Beret, which comes in handy when trouble drops out of the sky in the form of a crashed bush plane, a cryptic survivor, and some very nasty and well-equipped pursuers. Meanwhile, an American submarine stumbles on an abandoned research station buried under the Arctic ice cap, unleashing a race to conceal the horrors that took place there and to capture the priceless scientific secret still locked within.
James Rollins invokes the polar environment so vividly you can hear the wind shriek and feel the ice forming on your nose, and the scientific/medical puzzles at the story's heart may remind you of Michael Crichton's best. The characters, while mostly familiar hero or villain types, are crisply drawn and in some cases quite sympathetic, but it's the nonstop action that carries you along. During several climactic chase scenes, you may find yourself laughing in pure delight – or gasping for breath — as Rollins keeps finding ways to ratchet up the tension one more notch. Ice Hunt is an escapist's delight. — Nicholas H. Allison, Amazon.com
While Clive Cussler maintains the gold standard in action lit, Rollins has a firm grasp on the silver. Some astonishing threat or daring feat explodes into print on nearly every page, but that's the author's weakness as well as his strength, because in Rollins's books character and even plot take a backseat to sheer action. Rollins set his last novel, Amazonia, in steaming jungles; here he does a 180 and tells a tale of brutal cold, above and beneath the North Pole ice cap. An experimental American sub comes across an abandoned Soviet polar station encased in an iceberg. Meanwhile, a Russian admiral, the son of the man who once ran the station, is preparing to alter world history by exploding a nuclear weapon at the polar cap, melting it and flooding the globe. And Fish and Game warden Matt Pike, a former Green Beret, comes across a downed aircraft in the Alaskan mountains and rescues the sole survivor, who says he's a journalist on his way to the American polar station; immediately, Matt and the survivor are relentlessly pursued by black-clad Russian special forces. Eventually all parties, including Matt's estranged wife, end up at the abandoned polar station or the nearby American station; Russians and Americans, including Delta Force, battle fiercely over the privilege of exposing or forever hiding the secret of the Russian station, and in turn they must combat the prehistoric predators who roam the Russian station in search of warm meat. The plot is preposterous from the get-go, and Rollins's characters, though fully drawn, have about as much effect on the novel's course as riders on a roller-coaster--which is what this novel is, and a first class one at that if maximum mayhem is desired. — Publishers Weekly
At an abandoned World War II-era Russian base beneath the Arctic ice, U.S. scientists find a treasure trove of biological and geological discoveries and a horrific scene of tragic experiments. As they struggle to determine the nature of the atrocities that occurred at the facility, the U.S. military finds itself pulled into a quickly escalating but entirely covert war for control of the top-secret station. Haplessly caught in the midst of it all, an Alaskan park ranger and his Inuit ex-wife find themselves hunted by more than just Russian commandos; a type of creature long since dismissed as myth stalks the tunnels of the station in an all-too-real incarnation. All the while, the maniacal head of the Russian forces, bent on the rebirth of civilization, relentlessly pursues a plan to destroy the world. Rollins delivers another fantastic tale of action and adventure. New readers will be delighted and established fans will find exactly what they have come to expect: a fun and fast-paced story that is full of suspense. — Booklist
Readers often want to know more about a book's origins and the history behind my plots. Here are some reader questions about Ice Hunt:
Q: Most of your novels have a special geographical setting, for example the jungle in Amazonia or the North Pole in Ice Hunt. Nature itself seems to be one of your main characters. Do you agree?
- I certainly do. All story is tied to setting. Characters rise out of their landscape, whether it’s the indigenous tribes of the Amazon forest or the Inuit hunters of the frozen northlands. Culture, history, mythology are all entangled w
- ith the natural world. They are inseparable. So it’s important to bring this natural world as vividly to life as possible.
Q: Your descriptions of nature in Ice Hunt are phenomenally vivid. One almost feels the chill wind blowing while reading your book. Have you ever been there?
- I have been to Alaska and its vast parks and tundras, but I’ve never ventured out into the ice fields that extends toward the North Pole - though I have flown over them in a Twin Otter bush plane.
Q: In Ice Hunt an experimental American submarine comes across an abandoned Soviet polar station encased in an iceberg – with a horrible mystery inside. Page by page many scientific details emerge. How much research did it take?
- I spend about three to four months researching a book: reading, interviewing, taking notes, traveling. Still, every page I write still seems to need that extra bit of fact-checking. Research never stops as I begin to write. The two are intricately connected.
Q: One recurring theme in your books is modern technology and how it affects us – in a positive and negative way. What do you think: Do we pay a price much too high for a constant technological advance?
- That's a great question. And it’s one I love to explore in all my novels. Technology and advances in science are not a matter of just cogs and wheels. They often come with a human cost
- , a moral ambiguity. Technology tests our moral compass. And lately, I think what may be triggering the current backlash against some aspects of scientific research, like stem cells and cloning, may be the growing escalation and evolution of technology beyond the ability of the general public to understand the intricate nuances and outstripping our abilities t
- o judge them dispassionately and fully. And while disturbing, such questions and quandaries are wonderful fodder for the scientific thriller.
Q: Ice Hunt, like your other novels, is action, action, action. Page by page you take the reader on a roller coaster ride. How do you relax and release tension after a day full of writing? Or don’t you? Are your heroes always with you?
- While I’m in the depths of writing a book, the characters all inhabit my waking world. They are seldom far from my thoughts. Still, it is necessary to break away and physically separate yourself from the story. I try to spend some time each day at the gym, and on weekends I love to simply vanish into the mountains and hike or bike. Other pursuits I enjoy, though they are often between books as they require more of a time commitment, are scuba diving and caving.
Q: You are not only a bestselling author, but also a veterinarian. Do these two professions influence each other?
- Although I’ve stepped away from the clinic I started and ran for two decades, I will never abandon the animals completely. After I shifted to full-time writing, my readers noticed that animals began to play key roles in my novels: an orphaned jaguar cub in Amazonia, an aging German Shepherd in Deep Fathom…and in Ice Hunt, both grizzly bears and a wolf hybrid named Bane are integral to the story. So there definitely is a blend of my old profession with the new one.