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Reviewer: 'You'll read like mad to get to the end'

By Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Pocket Books, $23

Review by Margaret Howell

Web posted on: Monday, August 10, 1998 6:39:32 PM

(CNN) -- "Whatever the warhead was doing in Antarctica, it wouldn't help Argentina look for mineral resources in the frozen Ross Shelf. And if one MIRV warhead had been stolen, then Webber knew that, somewhere, there were five other warheads that NEST had to find.

Webber aimed the machine gun at Young. 'Nick ... step back ... I won't even count to five.'

'So, don't.' Young punched a red button on the winch's control panel. A small motor whined, and with a deafening rattle of metal chain, the winch slipped out of gear.

The warhead began its descent into the ice. In the same distracting instant, Young shouted over the clatter. 'It's set to go on contact! Twelve hundred feet down! Three minutes!'

Young held up his hands, stepped back with a shrug. 'Late again, cowboy.'

As quickly as that, the warhead was gone."

And with that you're plunged into a world of terrorism and survival, which never slows down long enough for you to catch your breath. An unknown terrorist group has detonated six nuclear weapons under Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf, the results of which are a solitron wave -- a wave that doesn't lose energy and has the potential to destroy everything in its path -- including all forms of communication.

Of course, the terrorists don't expect anyone to survive, which gives our heroes -- Capt. Mitch Webber and his ex-girlfriend, Dr. Cory Rey (an anti-nukes activist, ironically there to do an expose on illegal nuclear weapons) an edge. No one knows that they are trying to warn the world of the impending danger or trying to figure out how to stop the wave. But no one believes their incredible tale.

Don't worry about the scientific jargon -- everything is cleverly explained by the authors. For instance, this is when Dr. Rey must explain how a solitron wave is different than an asteroid landing in the ocean:

"All she needed now was one last example, something that would concretely connect a scientific principle to the life of a military officer ... She had it. 'Think of the asteroid as a bullet. Three hundred billion tons, one hundred thirty-five miles an hour, all focused on five square miles of ocean. Pow! The bullet goes right through you, right? But what if you're wearing a bullet-proof vest?' ... 'If you're in a vest and that bullet hits you, the armor plates spread the bullet's kinetic energy over a greater area. Your body still absorbs the same momentum from the bullet, the same energy, so you react the same way and go flying back, but the bullet doesn't go through you because the impact isn't focused on a single square inch of your skin."

"Icefire" keeps you guessing by throwing the main characters into one conflict after another. You never get a handle on one situation before another monkey wrench is thrown into the equation. Can the wave be stopped? Will anyone believe Mitch and Cory? Who is behind the plot? Why did they do it? As one question is answered another is asked, and that is exactly what makes "Icefire" the kind of book you love to hate. You'll read like mad to get to the end, all the while secretly hoping that it will go on forever.

Margaret Howell is a promotions producer at CNN. She loves writing and cooking.

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