Monday, June 15, 2009

Fiction review: "Terminal Freeze" by Lincoln Child

Terminal Freeze (Doubleday, 2009)
by Lincoln Child

I've always liked the joint Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child novels a bit better than any of the solo efforts by either writer. I still do, but this cryptozoologically-themed thriller is a very good entry on Child's part.
When I read the blurb, I thought, "Monster thaws out from ice? How overused and hokey is that?" It's still overused and hokey, but Child puts an original spin on it, adds some good writing, and the result is highly enjoyable. Child works in interesting technical details about things like filmmaking and ice-road trucking, along with some cutting-edge science and some that's a bit too speculative. For example, "ice-fifteen" is legitimate: it's a hypothesized (though not yet observed) form of ice with weird properties. On the other hand, the idea of a large animal being flash-frozen so quickly that it survives because no ice crystals form in the cells seems too much of a reach: even the best-conditioned Ice Age mammals we've found frozen have been obviously and unquestionably dead. A final discussion between characters, though, leaves us with a delicious new possibility that could explain why this animal doesn't react like everything else we know. Some of the characters seem stock, but Child redeems them with the right touch of human unpredictability. (With most authors, for example, the tough old Army sergeant would have stood his ground and died in his boots.)
Overall, this novel is just what I think Child wanted it to be: an absorbingly fun read that's also a bit of a homage to Arctic thrillers like Howard Hawks' 1951 film "The Thing."

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