I just finished Lincoln Child’s latest solo novel, Terminal Freeze, and had quite a bit of fun with it. The book demonstrates why cliches stick around and continue to work on us, as this book is chock-full of them, and yet it all works in providing a very entertaining read.
The action is so vivid in Terminal Freeze that the book might as well be a screenplay. The characters, scenes, plot, length, setting, it all feels destined to make its way to celluloid. The story is equal mixture Sphere, Predator, and Alien with a little Al Gore thrown in for that extra *pow*.
As a group of scientists (‘natch) toil away at a remote military base (double ‘natch) they discover a prehistoric beast frozen in ice (triple ‘natch) which threatens to kill them all, but only if the humans don’t kill themselves first by creating a global ecological disaster due to their evil capitalistic ways (4X Super ‘Natch Combo Insta-Kill).
Do you know why these themes pop up again and again? Because they work. Despite the stereotypical characters, I couldn’t help but love them. You have the reluctant warrior type who has vowed to never touch a weapon again. You have the bookish and handsome nerdy gumshoe type who always finds the clue. You have a few women sprinkled in just to make sure there is someone worth saving. Two of these guys, Logan and Marshall, I like enough that I hope they appear in a future book. Maybe even in a Douglas Preston joint venture.
The only problem I had with the book is that it ended a tad fast for my liking. There was a lot more that could have been done here. Perhaps a bit of a romantic interlude, or less survivors, or a more drawn-out battle. For all the weapons present in the book, they didn’t add to the drama much. And Marshall’s reluctance to wield one again never really fulfilled its plot potential. And as much as I hate pulling for the bad guy, a ridiculously high percentage of the cast walks away with nary a scratch.
Man, I guess I am wishing the book had two or three more cliches thrown in, eh? And why not? Sure, I love an original work like The Graveyard Book or a masterpiece of serious literature like Serena, but I also tune into Monk as he employs the same methods to catch the same killers, week after week. Almost like a two-part TV show, I read Terminal Freeze in two sittings, watching the book play out on the back of my eyeballs, and really enjoyed it. You just have to go in knowing what you are going to get.
Hopefully Hollywood takes a good look at the book. With the Global Warming angle, and the meta-ness of having a psychotic director play a big role in the plot, this would make for a great film. Especially the ice-trucker scenes. I know one of the learning channels has had a hit television series featuring this sub-culture, and it is easy to see why. The treacherous nature of this occupation made for some gripping reading, as little is more terrifying than being trapped below a layer of ice as you slowly asphyxiate and freeze to death.
My wife recently listened to the audiobook version and was also entertained. Looking back I can see that this novel is ideally suited for the audio treatment, as there isn’t a lot of heavy prose to admire for its construction or depth. Just a lot of action and good storytelling. If that is your bag, check it out. And if you happen to drive a Prius and think Alien was the best movie ever, get your ass to a bookstore as fast as your little hybrid engine will take you. And don’t forget to take your re-usable hemp shopping bag and to recycle that three-foot-long B&N receipt.