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Copyright © 2002 Clive Cussler.
All rights reserved.
Off the Maine Coast, the Present
LEROY JENKINS WAS hauling in a barnacle-encrusted lobster trap aboard his boat, The Kestrel, when he looked up and saw the giant ship on the horizon. He gingerly extracted a fat pair of angry crustaceans from the trap, pegged the claws and tossed the lobsters into a holding tank, then he rebaited the trap with a fish head, pushed the wire cage over the side and went into the pilothouse for his binoculars. He peered through the lenses and silently mouthed the word "Wow!"
The ship was huge. Jenkins examined the vessel from stem to stern with an expert eye. Before retiring to take up lobster-fishing, he had taught oceanography for years at the University of Maine, and he had spent many summer breaks on survey ships—but this vessel was like nothing he had ever seen. He estimated its length at about six hundred feet. Derricks and cranes sprouted from its deck. Jenkins guessed it was some sort of ocean mining or exploration vessel. He watched until the ship vanished from sight, then went back to pull the rest of the string of pots.
Jenkins was a tall, rangy man in his sixties, whose rugged features mirrored the rockbound coast of his native Maine. A smile crossed his deeply tanned face as he hauled in the last trap. It had been an exceptionally good day. He had found the honey hole by accident a couple of months earlier. The spot produced an endless supply of lobsters, and he kept coming back even though he had to go farther from land than normal. Fortunately, his thirty-six-foot wooden boat was seaworthy even with a full load. Setting a course for land, he put the boat on autopilot and went below to reward himself with what they used to call a Dagwood sandwich when he was a kid. He had just layered in another slice of baloney on top of the pile of ham, cheese and salami when he heard a muffled "Boom!" It sounded like a thunderclap, but it seemed to come from below.
The boat shuddered so violently the jars of mustard and mayonnaise rolled off the counter. Jenkins tossed his knife in the sink and sprang up to the deck. He wondered if the propeller had broken off or if he had hit a floating log, but nothing seemed amiss. The sea was calm and almost flat. Earlier, the blue surface had reminded him of a Rothko canvas.
The boat had stopped vibrating, and he took a wondering look around, then, shrugging, went below. He finished making his sandwich, cleaned up and went out on the deck to eat. Noticing a couple of lobster traps that had shifted, he secured them with a line, then as he stepped back into the wheelhouse, he experienced a sudden unpleasant stomach-sinking sensation, as if someone had pushed the Up button in a fast elevator. He grabbed onto the mechanical hauler to keep his footing. The boat plunged, then levitated again, higher this time, plummeted once more and repeated the cycle a third time before sinking back into the sea, where it rocked violently from side to side.
After a few minutes, the motion stopped and the boat stabilized, and Jenkins saw a flickering movement in the distance. Retrieving his binoculars from the wheelhouse, he swept the sea, and as he adjusted the focus ring, he saw three dark furrows extending from north to south. The ranks of waves were moving in the direction of the coast. A long-dormant alarm bell clanged in his head. It can't be. His mind raced back to that July day in 1998 off the coast of Papua New Guinea. He had been on a ship, making a survey, when there had been a mysterious explosion and the seismic instruments had gone crazy, indicating a disturbance on the seafloor. Recognizing the symptoms of a tsunami, the scientists aboard the ship had tried to warn the coast, but many of the villages had no communication. The huge waves had flattened the villages like a giant steamroller. The destruction was horrifying. Jenkins never forgot the sight of bodies impaled on mangrove branches, of crocodiles preying on the dead.
The radio crackled with a chorus of hard-edged Maine accents as fishermen set the airways abuzz. "Whoa!" said a voice Jenkins recognized as that of his neighbor, Elwood Smalley. "Hear that big boomer?"
"Sounded like a jet fighter, only underwater," another fisherman said.
"Anyone else feel those big seas?" said a third man.
"Yup," replied a laconic veteran lobsterman named Homer Gudgeon. "Thought for a time there I was on a roller coaster!"
Jenkins barely heard the other voices chiming in. He dug a pocket calculator out of a drawer, estimated the time between the waves and their height, did some quick calculations and glanced with disbelief at the numbers. Then he picked up the cell phone he used when he didn't want personal messages to go over the marine channel and punched out a number.
The gravelly voice of Charlie Howes, Rocky Cove's police chief, came on the phone.
"Charlie, thank God I got you!"
"In my cruiser on my way to the station, Roy. You calling to crow about whippin' me at chess last night?"
"Another time," Jenkins said. "I'm east of Rocky Point. Look, Charlie, we don't have much time. There's a big wave heading right toward town."
He heard a dry chuckle at the other end. "Hell, Roy," the chief said, "town like ours on the water is bound to get lots of waves."
"Not like this one. You've got to evacuate the people from near the harbor, especially the new motel."
Jenkins thought the phone had gone dead. Then came Charlie Howe's famous guffaw. "I didn't know today was April Fool's."
"Charlie, this is no joke," Jenkins said in exasperation. "That wave is going to slam into the harbor. I don't know how strong it will be, because there are lots of unknowns, but that motel is right in its path."
The chief laughed again. "Hell, some people would be real happy to see the Harbor View washed into the sea."
The two-story edifice that extended into the harbor on stilts had been a source of controversy for months. It had gone up only after a bitter fight, an expensive lawsuit filed by the developers and what many suspected were bribes to officials.
"They're going to get their wish, but you've got to get the guests out first."
"Hell, Roy, there must be a hundred people staying there. I can't roust them out for no reason. I'll lose my job. Even worse, I'll be a laughingstock."
Jenkins checked his watch and cursed under his breath. He hadn't wanted to panic the chief, but he had reached the end of his self-control.
"Goddamnit, you old fool! How will you feel if a hundred people die because you're afraid of being laughed at?"
"You're not kidding, are you, Roy?"
"You know what I did before I took up lobstering."
"Yeah, you were a professor at the university up at Orono."
"That's right. I headed up the Oceanography Department. We studied wave action. You've heard of the Perfect Storm? You've got the perfect tidal wave heading your way. I calculate it will hit in twenty-five minutes. I don't care what you tell those motel people. Tell them there's a gas leak, a bomb threat, anything. Just get them out and to higher ground. And do it now."
"Okay, Roy. Okay."
"Is there anything open on Main Street?"
"Coffee shop. Jacoby kid is on the night shift. I'll have him swing by, then check out the fish pier."
"Make sure everybody is out of the area in fifteen minutes. That goes for you and Ed Jacoby."
"Will do. Thanks, Roy. I think. 'Bye."
Jenkins was almost dizzy with tension. He pictured Rocky Point in his mind. The town of twelve hundred was built like the seats in an amphitheater, its houses clustered on the side of a small hill overlooking the roughly circular harbor. The harbor was relatively sheltered, but the town's inhabitants had learned after a couple of hurricane-driven storm surges to build back from the water. The old brick maritime buildings on the main street bordering the harbor had been given over to shops and restaurants that served tourists. The fish pier and the motel dominated the harbor. Jenkins cranked up the throttle and prayed that his warning had arrived in time.
CHIEF Howes immediately regretted agreeing to Roy's urgent pleas, and was overcome by a numbing sense of uncertainty. Damned if he did, damned if he didn't. He'd known Jenkins since they were kids and Roy was the smartest one in class. He had never known him to fail as a friend. Still. Oh hell, he was near retirement anyhow.
Howes switched on his flasher, nailed the accelerator and, with a smoky screech of tires, roared toward the waterfront. While he drove the short distance, he got the deputy on the radio and told him to clear out the coffee shop then to go along Main Street with his PA system blasting, warning people to get to high ground. The chief knew the diurnal rhythms of his town: who would be up, who would be walking a dog. Luckily, most businesses didn't open before ten.
The motel was another story. Howes pulled over two empty buses on their way to pick up schoolchildren and told the drivers to follow him. The cruiser squealed to a stop beneath the motel's canopy, and the chief huffed his way to the front door. Howes had been on the fence about the motel. It would spoil the integrity of the harbor, but it might bring in jobs for locals; not everyone in town wanted to be a fisherman. On the other hand, he didn't like the way the project was rammed through to approval. He couldn't prove it, but he was sure there had been bribes at town hall.
The developer was a local named Jack Shrager, an unprincipled land raper who was building condos along the river that ran off the harbor, further despoiling the town's quiet beauty. Shrager never did hire locals, preferring foreigners who worked long and cheap.
The desk clerk, a young Jamaican, looked up with a startled expression on his thin, dark face as the chief burst into the lobby and shouted: "Get everyone out of the motel! This is an emergency!"
"What's the problem, mon?"
"I've been told there's a bomb here."
The desk clerk gulped. Then he got on the switchboard and began to call rooms.
"You've got ten minutes," Howes emphasized. "There are buses waiting in front. Get everyone out, including yourself. Tell anyone who refuses that the police will arrest them."
The chief strode down the nearest hallway and pounded on doors. "Police! You must evacuate this building immediately. You have ten minutes," he yelled at the sleepy faces that peered out. "There has been a bomb threat. Don't stop to gather your belongings."
He repeated the message until he was hoarse. The hallways filled with people in bathrobes and pajamas or with blankets wrapped around them. A swarthy man with an unpleasant scowl on his face stepped from one room. "What the hell is going on?" Jack Shrager demanded.
Howes swallowed hard. "There's been a bomb threat, Jack. You've got to get out."
A young blond woman poked her head out of the room. "What's wrong, babe?"
"There's a bomb in the motel," the chief said, becoming more specific.
The woman's face went pale and she stepped into the hallway. She was still in her silk bathrobe. Shrager tried to hold her, but she pulled away.
"I'm not staying here," she said.
"And I'm not moving," Shrager said. He slammed the door.
Howes shook his head in frustration, then guided the woman by the arm, joining the throng heading for the front door. He saw the buses were almost filled and yelled at the drivers.
"Get out of here in five minutes. Drive to the highest hill in town."
He slid behind the wheel of his cruiser and drove to the fish pier. The deputy was arguing with three fishermen. Howes saw what was happening and yelled out the window, "Get your asses into those trucks and go to the top of Hill Street or you'll be arrested."
"What the hell is going on, Charlie?"
Howes lowered his voice. "Look, Buck, you know me. Just do as I say and I'll explain later."
The fisherman nodded, then he and the others got into their pickups. Howes told his deputy to follow them and made one last sweep along the fish pier, where he picked up an elderly man who sorted through the rubbish bins for cans and bottles. Then he scoured Main Street, saw that it was quiet and headed for the top of Hill Street.
Some of the people who stood shivering in the cool air of morning shouted at him. Howes ignored their insults, got out of his cruiser and walked partway down the steep hill that led down toward the harbor. Now that the adrenaline rush was over, he felt weak-kneed. Nothing. He checked his watch. Five minutes came and went. And so did his dreams of a peaceful retirement on a police pension. I'm dead, he thought, sweating despite the coolness.
Then he saw the sea rise above the horizon and heard what sounded like distant thunder. The townspeople stopped shouting. A darkness loomed out near the channel entrance and the harbor emptied out—he could actually see bottom—but the phenomenon lasted only a few seconds. The water roared back in with a noise like a 747 taking off, and the sea lifted the moored fishing boats as if they were toys. It was reinforced by two more waves, seconds apart, each taller than the one before. They surged over the shore. When they receded, the motel and the fish pier had vanished.
THE Rocky Point that Jenkins returned to was far different from the one he had left that morning. The boats moored in the harbor were jumbled together along the shore in a tangled heap of wood and fiberglass. Smaller craft had been thrown up onto Main Street. Shop windows were smashed as if by a gang of vandals. The water was littered with debris and seaweed, and a sulfuric smell of sea bottom mixed with the odor of dead fish. The motel had vanished. Only pilings remained of the fish pier, although the sturdy concrete bulkhead showed no sign of damage. Jenkins pointed his boat toward a figure waving his arms on the bulkhead. Chief Howes grabbed the mooring lines and tied them off, then he stepped aboard.
"Anybody hurt?" Jenkins said, his eyes sweeping the harbor and town.
"Jack Shrager was killed. He's the only one as far as we know. We got everyone else out of the motel."
"Thanks for believing me. Sorry I called you an old fool."
The chief puffed his cheeks out. "That's what I would have been if I'd sat on my ass and done nothing."
"Tell me what you saw," Jenkins said, the scientist reasserting itself over the Samaritan.
Howes laid out the details. "We were standing at the top of Hill Street. Sounded and looked like a thunderstorm, then the harbor emptied out like a kid pulling the plug in a bathtub. I could actually see bottom. That only lasted a few seconds before the water roared in like a jet plane."
"That's an apt comparison. On the open ocean, a tsunami can go six hundred miles an hour."
"That's fast!" the chief said.
"Luckily, it slows down as it approaches land and hits shallower water. But the wave energy doesn't diminish with the speed."
"It wasn't like I pictured. You know, a wall of water fifty feet high. This was more like a wave surge. I counted three of them, each bigger than the last. Thirty feet, maybe. They whacked the motel and pier and flooded Main Street." He shrugged. "I know you're a professor, Roy, but how exactly did you know this was going to happen?"
"I've seen it before off New Guinea. We were doing some research when an undersea slide generated a tsunami thirty to sixty feet tall, and a series of waves lifted our boat off the water just like what I felt today. The people were warned and many made it to high ground when the waves hit, but even so, more than two thousand people were lost."
The chief gulped. "That's more than live in this town." He pondered the professor's words. "You think that an earthquake caused this mess? I thought that was something that happened in the Pacific."
"Normally, you'd be right." Jenkins furrowed his brow and stared out to sea. "This is absolutely incomprehensible."
"I'll tell you something else that's going to be hard to figure. How am I going to explain that I evacuated the motel for a bomb scare?"
"Do you think anyone will care at this point?"
Chief Howes surveyed the town and the crowds of people cautiously making their way down the hill to the harbor and shook his head. "No," he said. "I don't guess they will."
Excerpted from Fire Ice by Clive Cussler with Paul Kemprecos. Copyright © 2002 by Clive Cussler. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted December 24, 2009
NUMA series is always exciting. Fire Ice is no different. It takes our minds through conspiracy, international intrigue and even some humor. This book is an outstanding example of Clive Cussler's writing style and imagination. You can see everything in your mind. A wonderfully exciting book.
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Posted April 26, 2005
As a huge Clive Cussler fan, I immediately began to check out this new Kurt Austin series with the first novel, 'Serpent'. It was alright, entertaining, but nothing really special - not really on par with Cussler's Pitt novels. As it turns out though, Paul Kemprecos does most of the actual writing - usually, Cussler writes the prologue and just gives Kemprecos' stuff a look-over. Anyways, the second one, 'Blue Gold' was also fun, but still lacking something. But Kemprecos hit it out of the park with 'Fire Ice', the third in the series. It was a little less action/adventure-oriented, but the characters were fleshed out much more, and the plot felt more complete and thought-out. It felt like an actual Cussler/Pitt novel! Since this one, they have also been good ('White Death', 'Lost City'), but this is still the pinnacle of the series for me.
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Posted November 19, 2012
For any fan of action adventure,this is a must read, especially for Cussler fans. The familiar characters that will, or already have begun to feel like old friends lead you through another adventure. Although it follows the familiar pattern of evil genius that must be stopped at all costs, the settings and scenes are always so descriptive and vivid that you feel like you're right there with them.
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Posted December 20, 2002
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Posted October 31, 2003
As this was my first Cussler, I had no problem with the characters matching previous characters. It reads well if you happen to be totally ignorant of the political commentary mixed in. There's some nicely researched historical parts, and some technical intricacies of ocean research, rather like Tom Clancy. The middle aged male Bond-like fantasy action parts are even entertaining, but where does the author get off fantasizing that the new president (2002 c.) is everything the liberal media says and worse? Having to read around these bits is rather annoying.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2003
I am a huge Cussler (and Pitt) fan, and I did enjoy Blue Gold with Austin, but this latest installment was flat. I found the action to lack excitment, and not enough of it. Conclusions to quickly tied up, and full of bad cliches, including a climax which left me wondering if I had missed it. I love Cussler's adventures, but this is one to skip.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 14, 2002
"In the heart of the old Soviet Union, a mining tycoon has proclaimed himself czar of Russia¿" is the griping first sentence of the jacket cover to entice readers to this, Clive Cussler's, Fire Ice. Again Kurt Austin emerges as our hero in this novel, as with Cussler's last collaboration with writer Paul Kemprecos Serpent, and Blue Gold, and is as cocky as ever. Some would compare Austin to John Clark from Tom Clancy's thriller Rainbow Six, and that would not be to far from the truth. As in both cases they are the go-to-guys for when things go wrong. Cussler has not let the reading public down in any way. Cussler is acclaimed worldwide as the Grandmaster of Adventure, a title richly deserved given that there are nearly 100 million copies of his best-selling Dirk Pitt novels in print. He wrote his first Dirk Pitt novel in 1973, since then he has continued to write Dirk Pitt adventures while living a life that nearly parallels that of his action hero. Like Pitt, Cussler enjoys discovering and collecting things of historical significance. Cussler started his very own NUMA (National Underwater & Marine Agency, a non-profit group) he has had an amazing record of finding over 60 shipwrecks, one of which was the long-lost Confederate submarine Hunley. Married to Barbara Knight for 40 years, with three children and two grandchildren, he divides his time between the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Arizona. Austin starts off the book is search of a TV crew that has not reported to the boat where he is stationed. Not only does he find the little lost lambs, but also he immediately has to save them from the clutches of some Russian soldiers and that starts a friendship off with the anchor-woman for the TV crew, that last the entire book. Austin and his buddy trip around the Baltic and Mediterranean seas. When the mad Russian mining tycoon finds Austin messing in his affairs he takes measures to stop him. In retaliation for the cruel act, Austin starts to really close in on the Russian. It all escalates to a fevered pitch when Austin discovers that the tycoon has plans to detonate patches of "fire ice" or crystallized methane, and destroy the eastern coast of the U.S., that breaks it for Austin. In the exciting climax on a ship of the East Coast, our protagonist clashes directly with the antagonist. It is an ending that will keep you riveted to the book. There are only two downsides to this book. The first and most important being that the book just seems to end to quickly, as though the author ran out of ideas. It was sort of a real let down for Cussler to do that to the reader when he usually such a strong ending. The only other complaint that I have is there was very little character development for the antagonist was poor at best. Other than that, a good read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 24, 2002
Fire Ice is the third Cussler novel in the new Kurt Austin series. It is typical Cussler, with some mild help from Paul Kemprecos on the usually befuddled Cusslerian english. The usual wooden dialogue and unbelievable coincidences leading to the devolvement of seemingly unrelated events into an historical, cohesive whole remains the standard by which we Cusslerians' accept our author for what his stories are: great fun. However, I must sound the warning note that there is nothing remarkable about Fire Ice. Worse, Cussler's new hero, Kurt Austin, and his trusty sidekick, Joe Zavala, are so much like Pitt and Giordino as to make it obnoxiously obvious to all that Cussler probably regrets the foolish decision to retire Dirk and Al in the first place! Austin started out with pale blue eyes in the first adventure, "Serpent". His eyes are now described as "coral green". Instead of a dark, Italian buddy, we now have a dark, Latino buddy who steals cigars like Giordino did. Nothing has changed, with this exception! With Dirk Pitt, Clive Cussler, probably through no fault of his own stilted writing, had developed a personality and several ongoing relationships. We knew about his relationship with Lauren, the meaning of his car collection and so much about him. Austin and Zavala are about as one-dimensional, as woooden, as your typical Cussler dialogue. Not that the dialogue EVER sounded like two real people speaking, but these guys are BAD. There was never a reason to drop Dirk Pitt. The nonsense about aging him and slowly referencing that fact in the last few books was a mistake. The beauty about fiction, particularly light reading fiction, is that you don't have to get into all that. Kurt Austin can sink for all I care. Bring back Dirk Pitt!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2002
I'm a huge fan of the Dirk Pitt/NUMA chronicles. Valhalla Rising was possibly the most entertaining of them all. I felt a bit let down by Fire Ice. It felt like it was written by a guy who had recently lost a fortune in the stock market and was trying to forget that. I still enjoyed it but was able to put this novel down fairly easily. Other Cussler novels have been impossible to quit.
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Posted October 24, 2002
I Have enjoyed all the Clive Cussler Novels(well Dirk Pitt adventures), But Can't say I'm a fan of Kurt Austin. I Felt a bit let dowm with Fire Ice. It wasn't a bad read but didn't really pull it off like the Good ole Days of Dirk & Al. With previous Cussler Novels I would have certainly re-read them time and time again, Not so with the Kirt Austin series. All I can say is Bring back Dirk Pitt. There was never really a Good reason to drop Dirk & AlWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 1, 2002
I received this book from my daughter on father's day. She knew I was a big Cussler fan. I wasn't disappointed with Fire Ice, despite my favoring Dirk Pitt over Kurt Austin. There's plenty of action, a good plot, and interesting characters. Some of Cussler's books are better than others but never are they bad. This one is one of the better ones, and it's like a friend is telling you a story.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 10, 2002
Posted August 6, 2002
After Valhalla Rising's totally rediculous story line and impossibly fantastic plots and devices (a briefcase that magically fill up with oil every day?!?) Not to mention trying to discredit Jules Verne. I wasn't intending to even look at this, but I received it as a gift and was glad I did. It was good to see Cussler depending on good writing and a plausible story rather than the last few Dirk Pitt fantasies. I think Clive Cussler has hit the mark with this one.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 7, 2002
I know that there are Clive Cussler fans out there that don't enjoy the Kurt Austin novels as much as they do his Dirk Pitt adventures, and it's understandable - there was a lot of that Cussler magic in the Dirk Pitt novels that just seemed....absent, I guess, in SERPENT and BLUE GOLD - although still very good novels, they just didn't feel the same. FIRE ICE, however, is truly an incredible novel - either Clive himself has become more involved in the Austin novels, or Paul Kemprecos has really learned a thing or two. The novel introduces fascinating characters that harken back to the older, classic Dirk Pitt novels, along with a seemingly terrific plot (okay, I'll admit - I haven't finished it yet...). I cannot wait to finish this one, and I absolutely cannot wait for the upcoming SAHARA movie, to be released in summer 2003. This is a MUST-READ - for Cussler fans and adventure readers alike!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2002
Though not published or completed yet, my uncles latest instalment in his series is truly captivating. Though I was unable to read the end of the book and I cant give details, I will say that its a true page turner and you will love the new characters. By Berryany of BermudaWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2008
Off the New England coast, a retired oceanographer turned fisherman recognizes the noise as a deadly tidal wave. He calls the police from the sea and averts a major catastrophe. <P>In the Aegean Sea, Captain Joe Logan takes visiting marine archeologist Dr. Pulaski underwater in a special sub. However, instead of scientific research Pulaski takes control of the sub waiting for a ¿pick-up¿. <P>A TV crew visits an abandoned Soviet sub base only to be attacked by Cossack warriors on horses. Only the intervention of National Underwater and Marine Agency scientist Kurt Austin saves their lives. <P>What these events have in common is Mikhail Razov and Boris the monk are behind each incident as they get ready for a Cossack holy war to take over Russia reminiscent of a modern day Czar with his Rasputin. They also expect to destroy the infidels starting with the United States. Only Austin and his old Soviet counterpart Victor Petrov stand in their way of succeeding. <P>As with all the NUMA tales, FIRE ICE is non-stop action that readers will dive into in one sitting. The exciting story line never slows down even for a paragraph as one event leads to another in Petrov¿s efforts to become the first Czar of Russia in nine decades. Austin remains the heroic genius that he was in previous books and the villains are an interesting duet. Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos furbishes a strong entry in one of the better action series. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.