Ice, Ice Baby
Canadian author Deborah Jackson holds a science degree and is a skilled writer with an impressive imagination. That said, her debut adult science fiction novel, Ice Tomb, clearly adheres to the sensibility of modern fiction publishing. That sensibility, interchangeable with big budget Hollywood, requires the plot to undergo more twists than the dough in an apple strudel. While diverting, this can tax the suspension of disbelief and runs the risk of insulting the intelligence of your readers, unless they happen to be so entertained by the plot acrobatics that they don't snap to the believability factor.
The first chapter of Ice Tomb buries the hook admirably. In the year 2015, a research team in Antarctica seems to have discovered something ancient, yet high tech, beneath the ice. We know this only by hearing events unfold through radio contact, until the communication ceases ominously.
Enter tough, brilliant and intrepid volcanologist Erica Daniels, who is baited by NASA with the possibility of helping establish a moon base. What they really want her for is to investigate what may be a volcanic heat source detected under the ice where the science team vanished. Meanwhile, Erica's ex-boyfriend, insecure, backstabbing geologist David Marsh, lands what should have been her seat aboard the lunar launch. Erica is thrown in with charming yet despicable British cad Allan Rocheford, an archeologist/bodice-ripper whom I pictured as a darker version of "Wesley" from The Princess Bride.
Events unfold in keeping with a Twister or an Independence Day, except that Jackson knows science and clearly did a staggering amount of research for Ice Tomb. We have bloodthirsty Navy SEALs sent under the radar to take out Russian scientists, a greatly mythologized ancient civilization, pyramids, an amazing secret hidden inside the moon, a super computer, a meteor on a collision course with the late, great planet earth and a piece of ancient technology wilder than everything listed above. Along with the unfolding mystery and suspense, the breakneck pace came in handy for me, as I was in for a lot of rumination over how slimy men are in their victimization of poor noble women. Meanwhile, thoroughly independent Erica falls for the date rape-style relentlessness of Rocheford, who, shockingly enough, turns out to be e-vil! Bwah-ha-ha!
The last third of the novel turned the book around for me quite a bit, as geologist David Marsh, in way over his head on the moon mission, grows as a person and begins to believe in himself at last—through the guidance of a woman astronaut, of course. And how can Erica's story line in Antarctica possibly mesh with David's, 200,000 miles out in space? Like I said, Deborah Jackson has an impressive imagination.
Erica Daniels, as the main character, is very well drawn and generally likable despite her taste in men, coupled with her outrage toward them. I can also see a film adaptation around the corner, with minimal adaptation required.
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