Icefire

The brief Garfield Reeves-Stevens series end with a work written with his frequent collaborator and wife Judith.

I don’t read a lot of thrillers techno- or otherwise these days — though in my youth I read most of the Alistair Maclean catalog. It’s a matter of opportunity costs and not that I don’t like them.

However, around Christmas one year I found myself in a crowded house and needed to read something not requiring careful attention.

Raw Feed (1998): Icefire, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, 1998.Icefire

I read this very marginal sf technothriller (it’s set no more than 8 years in the future) because I’ve admired some of Garfield Reeves-Stevens’ works.

It was a combination suspense thriller and disaster novel. New Zealand and Hawaii get hit but not, unfortunately, the west coast of the US. I liked the idea of using nuclear weapons to collapse the Ross Ice Shelf and create a giant soliton to devastate many of the Pacific Rim economies and create a better situation for instigator China. It’s a return, after a century, of the Yellow Menace to popular fiction though I’m sure this is not the first to revive the Chinese menace – a plausible menace, and certainly there have been Japanese menace novels.

The main attraction of technothrillers seem to be the intricate description of technologies, usually of a military or intelligence variety, and, to a lesser extant, the inner workings of government military and intelligence units. Here, besides a well done calculation on the solition’s effect, we get SR-71s, Cheyenne Mountain, Harriers, and nukes. A lot of technothrillers like made up technology, and we get that here with seemingly too good satellite reconnaissance, a supersonic transport, a neat stealth sub, and the real use for Project HAARP (pinpoint manipulation of the electromagnetic field anywhere on Earth, EMPs to order).

There were a few faults. It seems required (early Frederic Forsyth novels seem the exception) that suspense novels feature romance renewed (as here) or blooming fresh. It was bad enough Cory Rey, oceanographer and expert in fluid dynamics, just happened to be on site without being the ex-lover of co-hero Mitch Webber (unusually cautious for a SEAL). Still, the authors don’t overplay this subplot. (Though we get a developing romance between Major Bailey and her subordinate.) Also, the fate of Charles Quincy Abbott was a bit ambiguous. I assumed he committed suicide. He’s an interesting villain in that he’s not a traitor or dishonorable. He is a representative of the culture of secrecy that, if the novel has a serious point, is the target of this novel. To further his own ambitious and anti-Chinese policy, he first fails to think nukes have been detonated in the Antarctic (though the authors went to Antarctica, this novel doesn’t much convey a sense of place like Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica) then keeps the news away from the President and other members of the military. The President, never named, seems to be something of a Clinton stand-in complete with a troubled relationship with the military, though he ultimately comes across, in a brief scene, as a decisive and heroic. Another President unnamed but associated with the word “prudent” (Bush) is fondly remembered. Many lives are lost as the result of this, and he is removed from command. I was surprised how quickly the book started. No desperate race to stop the nukes here – the nukes are detonated early.

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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