Title: Ice Station Zebra
Author: Alistair MacLean
MacLean, Alistair (1960, 1967). Ice Station Zebra. London:Collins
Date Posted: June 23, 2015
This is early MacLean and one of his better books, in my opinion. I also enjoyed the movie but the “expert” reviews tore it apart, notably Rogers and Ebert. You can’t judge a book by its movie. I liked them both, and, well Excuse me!
Ice Station Zebra, an arctic meteorological station, located on the ever drifting pack ice of the high Arctic, has been destroyed by an equipment fire. The Dolphin, an American nuclear submarine, is about to set sail on a dangerous high speed mission under the polar ice cap to rescue the badly injured team. But, just as one would suspect from a cold war thriller, all is not as it seems. Ice Station Zebra is a good deal more than just a scientific meteorological station. The scientific team is not just a collection of scientists. One of them is a ruthless killer for which the achievement of his mysterious secret mission against the Americans and the Brits may even require the cold-blooded execution of the entire crew of the Dolphin. Nor is Doctor Carpenter, a British volunteer member of the Dolphin’s crew ostensibly along to seek out his brother who was part of Ice Station Zebra’s stricken team, precisely what he shows to the world.
As thrillers go, Ice Station Zebra is certainly enjoyable but it’s a long, long way from what most readers would label a compelling page turner. It’s got all the requisite ingredients to be sure—murder, sabotage, hidden identities, spies, accidents, cliff-hangers—but I think it could have been so much more. The parts of the story that took place inside the submarine were interesting and, at times, even exciting. But the action never reached the breathless urgent pace that was more recently achieved in other submarine thrillers such as The Hunt for Red October or Larry Bond’s Dangerous Ground. The Arctic itself as an environment which can be stunning in its breathtaking beauty and is always fraught with danger and the potential for deadly accidents was never truly exploited as a part of the story to anywhere near the extent that it might have been.
Ice Station Zebra is an enjoyable change of pace and nice easy brain candy reading that won’t tax the little grey cells. It just won’t make anyone’s top ten list of the best all-time spy vs spy thrillers! Since most of my reading is done when I go to bed (already worn out and yawning) it satisfied, but didn’t keep me awake.