James Rollins writes the Sigma series of novels which are some of my favourite books featuring a team of scientists with military training racing from exotic locales to exotic locales trying to save the world from imminent destruction. As you can probably tell great literature they aren't but what they are is highly readable and enjoyable. He is also the author of his own fantasy series under the pseudonym of James Clemens. As well as these book series he is also the author of a few different standalone stories and while I personally don't find these to be as enjoyable as his Sigma series they are still good fun reads to while away a few hours.
I have read all of his standalone books and while are more successful than others Ice Hunt is one of the weaker ones. It's not to say that it is a bad novel as such but as a writer Rollins is capable of so much better than this.
~~~~~~~~~~ Plot ~~~~~~~~~~
The plot of Ice Hunt all revolves around a secret scientific ice station called Grendel located in the Arctic which has been abandoned for over 70 years by the former Soviet Union. Unbeknown to a secret underwater research vessel belonging to the Americans when the discover it that Grendel perhaps isn't as abandoned as they thought it might be.
Throw in some underground tunnels, some Russians looking for a doomsday weapon, post cold war politics, plenty of action sequences and of course a hero and heroine with a romance sub plot and you have a book which should keep you entertained for a few hours.
~~~~~~~~~~ My opinion ~~~~~~~~~~
First of all I should start with saying that there is so much to enjoy about this book. First of all the setting is spectacular and as always Rollins describes it so well to the point that you can vividly imagine everything that he writes about. The Arctic always makes a great secondary character in a book and in this one the wild and deadly landscape is shown off to its full potential. It is a shame that a lot of the action is set in the ice station itself as I would have liked more to have been set outside but he also does a great job of bringing this huge station and the underground caverns to life. Rollins really is good when it comes to his descriptive language and he doesn't fail here when it comes to describing everything.
The other thing which this book gets right is the action. At its heart this is an action book and the action sequences are excellent. As a writer Rollins has a great imagination and some of his action sequences in other books are so unusual and different that I can't even imagine how he came up with the ideas. Here they aren't quite so unusual but are still written really well that they get the adrenaline pumping while reading them. The whole book reads like some big budget Hollywood action movie and I could easily see Tom Cruise running about doing the stunts described in the book.
The problem with a lot of these types of action books is that they can sometimes be a little ridiculous and this book makes you suspend your belief just a tad more than some others in the genre. It also throws so much at you while reading that it can be a little jarring. The book goes from thriller to action to horror to science and even to romance and while they do work it takes a little bit of faith in the writer to know where he is going with it all. Luckily Rollins is always really good at seeming to know where he is taking the reader and the book doesn't feel like he has just thrown a load of things at the page and hoped they will all stick but instead it does seem that he has plotted the book thoroughly and knows exactly the story he wants to tell.
The worst thing about this book for me personally was the characters in it. Usually Rollins is so good with his characters and although we don't perhaps get to know a lot about them individually as a reader we end up starting to take them to our hearts. I am talking about the characters in his Sigma series which are some of my all-time favourite people to read about and I can forgive him a little with this book as it must be harder to really flesh out the characters in a standalone novel but what isn't forgivable is that the two lead characters in this just annoyed me to the point where I just didn't care if they lived or died.
All his standalone stories involve creatures of some kind and it is revealed pretty early in the book that this one too has creatures of some kind. When they are finally revealed and it is known what exactly they are it was a huge disappointment as usually there is a much more exciting reason for them though he does give some good scientific reasons as to why they are there.
The other thing which disappointed me about this book was that although it should have been exciting as it is non-stop action I did find myself getting a little bit bored at times whilst reading it. I wasn't bored constantly but I did find myself putting it down to go back to later which is not something that I normally do with his books as usually I am dying to get to the end and find out what is going to happen. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that it is set in the one place. As spectacular as the setting is and as well realised and fleshed out it is I did wish that we could change locations for a couple of chapters. One of the strengths of the Sigma series is all the exotic locales they go to and I did find myself missing that here.
~~~~~~~~~~ Conclusion ~~~~~~~~~~
I would recommend Ice Hunt to fans of the genre. It isn't a great book by any means but it is a good book and one that is enjoyable and fast paced to read. It is the sort of book that makes a boring Sunday fly by but I would recommend that you start with either his Sigma series or else another of his standalone novels as they are better than this one.
For those interested in reading it the book can be bought in paperback brand new on Amazon for £5.59 and for next to nothing second hand. It is also available as a kindle book and can be bought as an audiobook though for some reason with the audio version the prices seem to be absolutely astronomical.
To conclude this is a highly readable fast paced scientific thriller. For fans of Rollins or of this gene it will keep you entertained and although not as enjoyable as a lot of the authors other works it is still better than 90% of the other offerings in this genre.