The Ice Limit

The Ice Limit

3.9 91
by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
     
 

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The largest known meteorite has been discovered, entombed in the earth for millions of years on a frigid, desolate island off the southern tip of Chile. At four thousand tons, this treasure seems impossible to move. New York billionaire Palmer Lloyd is determined to have this incredible find for his new museum. Stocking a cargo ship with the finest scientists and… See more details below

Overview

The largest known meteorite has been discovered, entombed in the earth for millions of years on a frigid, desolate island off the southern tip of Chile. At four thousand tons, this treasure seems impossible to move. New York billionaire Palmer Lloyd is determined to have this incredible find for his new museum. Stocking a cargo ship with the finest scientists and engineers, he builds a flawless expedition. But from the first approach to the meteorite, people begin to die. A frightening truth is about to unfold: The men and women of the Rolvaag are not taking this ancient, enigmatic object anywhere. It is taking them.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
The adventure fiction team of Preston and Child are at it again with a thriller centering on a gigantic meteorite found off the coast of Chile and the egotistic billionaire who decides it must be the centerpiece of his new museum. "Another great read from Preston and Child." While judged not "quite as good as Relic," The Ice Limit is still a "rip-roaring adventure with take-your-breath-away nautical action."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The summer-beach reader has few better friends than Preston and Child, who, beginning with Relic (1995), have produced one (generally) smart and suspenseful thriller after another, most recently Thunderhead. Their new novel--which, like its predecessors, skirts the edge of science fiction--is their most expertly executed (though not most imaginative) entertainment yet. Its concept is high and simple: a scientific expedition plans to dig out and transport to New York harbor the mother of all meteorites from its resting spot on an icy island offshore Chile. The mission is nearly impossible: not only will the meteorite be the heaviest object ever moved by humanity, but the Chileans, if they learn of the mission, may decimate it in order to keep the meteorite. Six strong if broadly drawn characters propel the premise into action. There's bullheaded billionaire Palmer Lloyd, who funds the expedition, and three (of the many) people he hires to get the rock: world-class meteorite-hunter Sam McFarlane, disgraced for his obsession about possible interstellar meteorites; Captain Britton, disgraced alcoholic skipper hired to ferry the meteorite to the U.S.; and Eli Glinn, cold-blooded mastermind of an engineering firm dedicated to getting incredible jobs done--this one at the price of $300 million. There's Commandante Vallenar, a Chilean naval officer exiled to his nation's southern wastes, who will stop at nothing to defend Chile's honor and property. Finally, there's the meteorite--blood red, impossibly dense, possessed of strange and dangerous properties. Like the premise, the plot is simple, traversing a near-linear narrative that sustains serious tension as the expedition travels to Chile, digs out the meteorite and heads homeward--only to face both Vallenar and a ferocious storm. What the novel lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in athleticism: this is a big-boned thriller, one that will make a terrific summer movie as well as a memorable hot-day read. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
VOYA
When meteorite fanatic Sam McFarlane first encounters billionaire Lloyd Palmer, Palmer dashes his hopes of locating a long-sought-after meteorite in the Kalahari desert. Palmer offers McFarlane the chance to find and retrieve an even more special one—the largest meteorite in the world—that McFarlane's friend and ex-partner died trying to find. Palmer, who sweetens the deal with nearly a million dollars, wants the four-thousand-ton meteorite for his museum of rare and unusual (and costly) items. He engages the services of Eli Glinn's premier engineering firm, Effective Engineering Solutions. EES must figure out how to uncover and extract the huge meteorite from the Chilean island near the edge of Antarctica and to transport it successfully back to Palmer's New York museum. Further complicating the task is the secrecy in which it must be shrouded. Chile's government does not know of the existence of the meteorite, and Palmer wants the government to stay in ignorance, which takes the full efforts of McFarlane, Glinn, and the band of EES specialists. When the meteorite is located, the group becomes aware of its strange behavior—unlike any other meteorite ever found before. Preston and Child, coauthors of many previous thrillers, including Riptide (Warner, 1998/VOYA December 1998) and Thunderhead (Warner, 1999/VOYA Clueless? list, December 1999), again have produced a solid, suspenseful page-turner filled with unexpected twists and unusual characters. The dramatic end will prompt readers to thumb back through pages they just read. Teens who have enjoyed this writing team's earlier work or who relish Clive Cussler's adventure novels will love finding The Ice Limit. VOYACODES: 4Q 4P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult and Young Adult). 2000, Warner, 449p, $25.99 Ages 16 to Adult. Reviewer: Joanna Morrison

SOURCE: VOYA, December 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 5)

KLIATT
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 2000 review of the Time Warner Audiobook edition: ...[a] tense thriller set in the cold waters near the southern tip of South America and Antarctica. A secret expedition seeks to steal a huge meteorite from an island off the coast of Chile. Where has it come from and why is it there? Not only are the technical difficulties of moving such a massive object awe inspiring but the personal and diplomatic politics are dramatic as well. Dialogue and characters are believable and the story is breathtakingly tense throughout. Refreshingly, the master of the freighter is a woman. For lovers of The Perfect Storm... KLIATT Codes: SA*—Exceptional book, recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2000, Warner, 494p., $7.99. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Jean Palmer; KLIATT , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Library Journal
The scene: a ship near Cape Horn off the Chilean coast. The cast: a well-paid but dedicated and courageous staff of technicians, including a female skipper and a scientist each with a questionable past. The problem in this adventure by best-selling coauthors Preston and Child (Riptide): how to transport the biggest meteorite ever to a New York museum without attracting the attention of the Chilean authorities and the press? Add the further complication that the meteorite derives from a strange, unfamiliar element. At one point, the vessel is attacked and trapped by a Chilean ship. As the suspense builds, the various strands of the plot come together. Will the ship survive? What happens to the meteorite if, indeed, it is a meteorite? The book is recommended with one reservation: if you don t enjoy necessary technical passages, you may be bored. On the other hand, if you enjoy Clive Cussler, you ll probably enjoy this novel. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/00.] Fred M. Gervat, Concordia Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
YA-Hired to locate a meteorite and transfer it to a billionaire collector's new museum, Sam McFarlane uses high technology and groups of experts to find, dig up, and begin shipping the gigantic rock. However, Commandante Vallenar of the Chilean Navy doesn't want it removed from his country. Action on the tanker reaches an intense strain as the crew and members of the recovery team struggle with both the meteorite and a killer storm, a panteonero, which threatens to overwhelm the ship. Gunfire from Vallenar's ship initiates a life-and-death chase as both vessels sail into the frigid waters off Tierra del Fuego. The meteorite, full of unknown properties and prone to sudden bursts of electrical charges, offers the biggest surprise of all, as the ocean stands ready to claim everyone and everything. This is a tempestuous adventure of high seas, high stakes, and high excitement. As characters enter the story, their personalities expand along with the intricate plot, taking on more intensity and power. The extreme hostility of the environment eventually proves to be the deciding factor. Like Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm (Norton, 1997), this natural thriller is not to be missed.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780759525221
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
07/01/2001
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
21,866
File size:
1 MB

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Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


Isla Desolación

January 16, 1:15 p.m


The valley that had no name ran between barren hills, a long mottled floor of gray and green covered with soldier moss, lichens, and carpha grasses. It was mid-January–the height of summer–and the crevasses between the patches of broken rock were mortared with tiny pinguicula flowers. To the east, the wall of a snowfield gleamed a bottomless blue. Blackflies and mosquitoes droned in the air, and the summer fogs that shrouded Isla Desolación had temporarily broken apart, allowing a watery sunlight to speckle the valley floor.

A man walked slowly across the island's graveled flats, stopping, moving, then stopping again. He was not following a trail–in the Cape Horn islands, at the nethermost tip of South America, there were none.

Nestor Masangkay was dressed in worn oilskins and a greasy leather hat. His wispy beard was so thick with sea salt that it had divided itself into forked tips. It waggled like a snake's tongue as he led two heavily burdened mules across the flats. There was no one to hear his voice commenting unfavorably on the mules' parentage, character, and right to existence. Once in a while the complaints were punctuated with the thwack of a sucker rod that he carried in one brown hand. He had never met a mule, especially a rented mule, that he liked.

But Masangkay's voice held no anger, and the thwacks of his sucker rod held little force. Excitement was rising within him. His eyes roamed over the landscape, taking in every detail: the columnar basaltic escarpment a mileaway, the double-throated volcanic plug, the unusual outcropping of sedimentary rock. The geology was promising. Very promising.

He walked across the valley floor, eyes on the ground. Once in a while a hobnailed boot would lash out and kick a rock loose. The beard waggled; Masangkay grunted; and the curious pack train would move on once again.

In the center of the valley, Masangkay's boot dislodged a rock from the flat. But this time he stopped to pick it up. The man examined the soft rock, rubbing it with his thumb, abrading small granules that clung to his skin. He brought it to his face and peered at the grit with a jeweler's loupe.

He recognized this specimen–a friable, greenish material with white inclusions–as a mineral known as coesite. It was this ugly, worthless rock that he had traveled twelve thousand miles to find.

His face broke into a broad grin, and he opened his arms to heaven and let out a terrific whoop of joy, the hills trading echoes of his voice, back and forth, back and forth, until at last it died away.

He fell silent and looked around at the hills, gauging the alluvial pattern of erosion. His gaze lingered again on the sedimentary outcrop, its layers clearly delineated. Then his eyes returned to the ground. He led the mules another ten yards and pried a second stone loose from the valley floor with his foot, turning it over. Then he kicked loose a third stone, and a fourth. It was all coesite–the valley floor was practically paved with it.

Near the edge of the snowfield, a boulder–a glacial erratic–lay atop the tundra. Masangkay led his mules over to the boulder and tied them to it. Then, keeping his movements as slow and deliberate as possible, he walked back across the flats, picking up rocks, scuffing the ground with his boot, drawing a mental map of the coesite distribution. It was incredible, exceeding even his most optimistic assumptions.

He had come to this island with realistic hopes. He knew from personal experience that local legends rarely panned out. He recalled the dusty museum library where he had first come across the legend of Hanuxa: the smell of the crumbling anthropological monograph, the faded pictures of artifacts and long-dead Indians. He almost hadn't bothered; Cape Horn was a hell of a long way from New York City. And his instincts had often been wrong in the past. But here he was.

And he had found the prize of a lifetime.

Masangkay took a deep breath. He was getting ahead of himself. Walking back to the boulder, he reached beneath the belly of the lead packmule. Working swiftly, he unraveled the diamond hitch, pulled the hemp rope from the pack, and unbuckled the wooden box panniers. Unlatching the lid of one pannier, he pulled out a long drysack and laid it on the ground. From it he extracted six aluminum cylinders, a small computer keyboard and screen, a leather strap, two metal spheres, and a nicad battery. Sitting cross-legged on the ground, he assembled the equipment into an aluminum rod fifteen feet long, with spherical projections at either end. He fitted the computer to its center, clipped on the leather strap, and slapped the battery into a slot on one side. He stood up, examining the high-tech object with satisfaction: a shiny anachronism among the grubby pack gear. It was an electromagnetic tomographic sounder, and it was worth over fifty thousand dollars–a ten-thousand down payment and financing for the rest, which was proving to be a struggle to pay off atop all his other debts. Of course, when this project paid off, he could settle with everyone–even his old partner.

Masangkay flicked the power switch and waited for the machine to warm up. He raised the screen into position, grasped a handle at the center of the rod, and let the weight settle around his neck, balancing the sounder the way a high-wire artist balances his pole. With his free hand he checked the settings, calibrated and zeroed the instrument, and then began walking steadily across the long flat, staring fixedly at the screen. As he walked, fog drifted in and the sky grew dark. Near the center of the flat, he suddenly stopped.

Masangkay stared at the screen in surprise. Then he adjusted some settings and took another step. Once again he paused, brow furrowed. With a curse he switched the machine off, returned to the edge of the flat, rezeroed the machine, and walked at right angles to his previous path. Again he paused, surprise giving way to disbelief. He marked the spot with two rocks, one atop the other. Then he walked to the far side of the flat, turned, and came back, more quickly now. A soft rain was beading on his face and shoulders, but he ignored it. He pressed a button, and a narrow line of paper began spooling out of the computer. He examined it closely, ink bleeding down the paper in the mist. His breath came faster. At first he thought the data was wrong: but there it was, three passes, all perfectly consistent. He made yet another pass, more reckless than the last, tearing off another spool of paper, examining it quickly, then balling it into his jacket pocket.

After the fourth pass, he began talking to himself in a low, rapid monotone. Veering back toward the mules, he dropped the tomographic sounder on the drysack and untied the second mule's pack with trembling hands. In his haste, one of the panniers fell to the ground and split open, spilling picks, shovels, rock hammers, an auger, and a bundle of dynamite. Masangkay scooped up a pick and shovel and jogged back to the center of the flat. Flinging the shovel to the ground, he began feverishly swinging the pick, breaking up the rough surface. Then he scooped out the loosened gravel with the shovel, throwing it well to the side. He continued in this fashion, alternating pick and shovel. The mules watched him with complete impassivity, heads drooping, eyes half-lidded.

Masangkay worked as the rain began to stiffen. Shallow pools collected at the lowest points of the graveled flat. A cold smell of ice drifted inland from Franklin Channel, to the north. There was a distant roll of thunder. Gulls came winging over his head, circling in curiosity, uttering forlorn cries.

The hole deepened to a foot, then two. Below the hard layer of gravel, the alluvial sand was soft and easily dug. The hills disappeared behind shifting curtains of rain and mist. Masangkay worked on, heedless, stripping off his coat, then his shirt, and eventually his undershirt, flinging them out of the hole. Mud and water mingled with the sweat that ran across his back and chest, defining the ripples and hollows of his musculature, while the points of his beard hung with water.

Then, with a cry, he stopped. He crouched in the hole, scooping the sand and mud away from a hard surface beneath his feet. He let the rain wash the last bit of mud from the surface.

Suddenly, he started in shock and bewilderment. Then he knelt as if praying, spreading his sweaty hands reverently on the surface. His breath came in gasps, eyes wild with astonishment, sweat and rain streaming together off his forehead, his heart pounding from exertion, excitement, and inexpressible joy.

At that moment, a shock wave of brilliant light burst out of the hole, followed by a prodigious boom that rolled off across the valley, echoing and dying among the far hills. The two mules raised their heads in the direction of the noise. They saw a small body of mist, which became crablike, broke apart, and drifted off into the rain.

The tethered mules looked away from the scene with indifference as night settled upon Isla Desolación.

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