The Ice Limit (2000)

I always enjoy the writing duo of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Together, they are masters of the technothriller, and also incorporate the timeless theme of man versus nature. Time after time, they can tell a great story of man taking on some project, planning it to the nth degree, and it all turning to junk as the characters couldn't plan for every eventuality.

While many of their novels focus of Agent Pendergrast, The Ice Limit is an earlier one, and really has none of their recurring characters (although they always manage to sneak in some reference to another novel's character somewhere in their ever expanding universe; see here for details).

In The Ice Limit, the task centers around the retrieval of a meteorite. While it seems simple at first, the level of difficulty grows as the details emerge: it's on an island near the Drake Passage, it will be the heaviest object ever moved by man, it's winter, the Chilean government would block expedition if they knew about it, it's of an unknown substance that's harder than anything on the Moh's scale, and the list goes on and on, including one more little detail: if you touch it you'll die instantly from the energy contained within. Yeah, this should be an easy day's work, right?

Billionaire Palmer Lloyd wants this rock at his new museum in the Hudson Valley to be his centerpiece exhibit. What's a rich guy with tons of money to do? He enlists the aid of an engineering consulting firm, Effective Engineering Solutions, who agree to take on the job for an exorbitant price. In order to move the meteorite they even refit an oil supertanker for the task, but need to hire a skipper with a checkered past for this most unusual moving job.

As the novel proceeds, it gets more and more interesting. The title refers to the place down by Antarctica where it's so cold that there is always ice on the ocean. Needless to say, at some point they end up down there, and it's a great ride for the reader as we follow the twists and turns of this awesome technothriller. While some of the science is literally out of this world, I could find no fault with any of it.

My only criticism of this book is that at the conclusion, it kind of has an unsettling feeling, and not a real resolution. While the authors originally intended it as such, they did take things a little further and wrote a web only epilogue to The Ice Limit. While that adds a little to the overall story, reportedly they do have a sequel planned, but no word when that might be out. In the meantime, for a science minded individual seeking some great fiction, it's hard to top the writing of Preston & Childs.

Overall Grade: A

Reviewed by Jonas

Addendum: The day I put up this review, I find this story about a ship down in the area of the ice limit.

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