Terminal Freeze

Terminal Freeze

3.8 144
by Lincoln Child

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In this riveting, high-octane thriller from Lincoln Child, an ancient creature is inadvertently released to wreak havoc on the inhabitants of a desolate arctic landscape.
Alaska's Federal Wilderness Zone is one of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on Earth. For paleoecologist Evan Marshall, an expedition to the Zone offers an

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In this riveting, high-octane thriller from Lincoln Child, an ancient creature is inadvertently released to wreak havoc on the inhabitants of a desolate arctic landscape.
Alaska's Federal Wilderness Zone is one of the most dangerous and inhospitable places on Earth. For paleoecologist Evan Marshall, an expedition to the Zone offers an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study the mounting effects of climate change. But once there, Marshall and his intrepid team make an astonishing discovery: an enormous prehistoric animal encased in solid ice. Despite repeated warnings from the local village, and Marshall's own mounting concern, the expedition sponsors want the creature cut from the ice, thawed, and revealed on a live television spectacular…But then the creature disappears and an unspeakable horror is unleashed.

Editorial Reviews

On an Arctic expedition to research the effects of global warming, paleoecologist Evan Marshall and his team make a discovery destined to make front-page headlines around the globe. In the deep recesses of a glacial ice cave, they come upon a gargantuan ancient creature, encased in solid ice. With echoes of King Kong and Jurassic Park, the creature is freed from its captivity, media moguls transforming the thawing-out into an international television event. As this live docudrama unfolds, Marshall grows apprehensive that this beast striding out into the new millennium might be the end of us all. Science, myth, and terror: This Lee Child thriller has it all.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.00(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.30(d)

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"Hey, Evan. Lunch?"

Evan Marshall put the ziplock bag aside and stood up, massaging his lower back. He'd spent the last ninety minutes with his face inches above the ground, collecting samples from the glacial sediment, and it took his eyes a moment to adjust. The voice had been Sully's, and now Marshall made him out: a squat, slightly portly figure in a fur-lined parka, standing, arms crossed, thirty yards up the steep valley. Behind him rose the terminal tongue of the Fear glacier, a rich, mysterious blue riddled with white fracture lines. Large ice boulders lay scattered along its base like so many monstrous diamonds, along with daggerlike shards of ancient lava. Marshall opened his mouth to warn Sully against standing so close: the glacier was as dangerous as it was pretty, since the weather had turned warmer and the ice front was calving off deadly chunks at an unprecedented rate. Then he thought better of it. Gerard Sully was proud of his position as nominal leader and didn't like being told what to do. Instead, Marshall just shook his head. "I think I'll pass, thanks."

"Suit yourself." Sully turned toward Wright Faraday, the party's evolutionary biologist, who was busying himself a little downslope. "How's about it, Wright?"

Faraday glanced up, watery blue eyes oddly magnified behind tortoiseshell frames. A digital camera dangled from a heavy strap around his neck. "Not me," he said with a frown, as if the thought of stopping to eat in the middle of a workday was somehow heretical.

"Starve yourselves if you want to. Just don't ask me to bring anything back."

"Not even a Popsicle?" asked Marshall.

Sully smiled thinly. He was about as short as Napoleon, and radiated a combination of egotism and insecurity that Marshall found especially annoying. He'd been able to put up with it back at the university, where Sully was just one arrogant scientist among many, but up here on the ice--with nowhere to escape--it had grown irksome. Perhaps, he reflected, he should be relieved that their expedition had only a few weeks to play out.

"You look tired," Sully said. "Out walking again last night?"

Marshall nodded.

"You'd better be careful. You might fall into a lava tube and freeze to death."

"All right, Mom. I'll be careful."

"Or run into a polar bear, or something."

"That's all right. I'm starved for some good conversation."

"It's no joke, you refusing to carry a gun and all."

Marshall didn't like the direction this was leading. "Look, if you run into Ang, tell him I've got more samples here for transport back to the lab."

"I'll do that. He'll be thrilled."

Marshall watched the climatologist make his way carefully past them, down the rubble toward the foot of the mountain and their base. He called it "their base," but of course it belonged to the U.S. government: officially known as the Mount Fear Remote Sensing Installation and decommissioned almost fifty years ago, it consisted of a low, gray, sprawling, _institutional-looking structure, festooned with radar domes and other detritus of the cold war. Beyond it lay a frigid landscape of permafrost and lava deposits spewed ages ago from the mountain's guts, gullied and split as if the earth had torn itself apart in geologic agony. In many places, the surface was hidden beneath large snowfields. There were no roads, no other structures, no living things. It was as hostile, as remote, as alien as the moon.

He stretched as he looked out over the forbidding landscape. Even after four weeks on-site, it still seemed hard to believe that anyplace could be so barren. But then the entire scientific expedition had seemed a little unreal from the start. Unreal that a media giant like Terra Prime had picked their grant applications for approval: four scientists from Northern Massachusetts University with nothing in common save an interest in global warming. Unreal that the government had given them clearance to use Fear Base, _admittedly at significant expense and with strict limitations. And unreal that the warming trend itself was occurring with such breathtaking, frightening speed.

He turned away with a sigh. His knees hurt from hours of crouching over the terminal moraine, collecting samples. His fingertips and nose were half frozen. And to add insult to injury, the snow had turned to thin freezing sleet that was now slowly seeping through three layers of clothing and settling into the most intimate crevices of his person. But daylight was brief these days, and their expedition's window was fast closing. He was keenly aware of how little time he had left. There would be plenty of food back in Woburn, Massachusetts, and plenty of time to eat it.

As he turned to retrieve the sample bags, he heard Faraday speak again. "Five years ago, even two, I'd never believe it. Rain."

"It's not rain, Wright. It's sleet."

"Close enough. Rain in the Zone, with winter coming on? Unbelievable."

The "Zone" was a vast stretch of northeastern Alaska, hard against the Arctic Ocean, sandwiched between the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on one side and the Yukon's Ivvavik National Park on the other. It was a tract so cold and desolate that nobody wanted anything to do with it: temperatures struggled to get above zero only a few months out of the year. Years ago, the government branded it the Federal Wilderness Zone and promptly forgot all about it. There were, Marshall reflected, probably no more than two dozen people in all its two million acres: their own scientific team of five, the base's skeleton crew of four, a small band of Native Americans to the north, and a scattering of backpackers and loners who were too hard-core or eccentric to settle for anything but the most remote. How strange to think there were few people farther north on the planet than their little group.

A sudden, tremendous report, like the crack of a cannon, shook the glacial valley with the violence of an earthquake. The sound echoed across the tundra below them, violating the profound silence, bouncing back and forth like a tennis ball, growing slowly fainter as it receded into endless distance. Above, the face of the glacier had shorn away, tons of ice and snow adding to the frozen rubble lying along its forward edge. Marshall felt his heart lurch uncomfortably in his chest. No matter how many times he heard that sound, its violence always came as a shock.

Faraday pointed toward it. "See? That's exactly what I mean. A valley glacier like the Fear should taper to a nice, thin ice front, with a minimum of meltwater and a healthy percolation zone. But this one is calving like a tidewater glacier. I've been measuring the basal melt--"

"That's Sully's job, not yours."

"--and it's off the scale." Faraday shook his head. "Rain, unprecedented melting--and there are other things happening, too. Like the northern lights the last few nights. You notice them?"

"Of course. A single color--it was spectacular. And unusual."

"Unusual." Faraday repeated the word thoughtfully.

Marshall did not reply. In his experience, every scientific expedition, even one as small as this, had its Cassandra figure. Wright Faraday--with his prodigious learning, his pessimistic outlook on life, his dark theories and outrageous predictions--played the role expertly. Marshall gave the biologist a covert glance. Despite knowing him casually as a university colleague, and now having spent a month almost continually in his presence, he didn't really have a good idea what made the man tick.

Still--Marshall thought as he filled and sealed a fresh bag, recorded the sample's location in a notebook, then measured and photographed the extraction site--Faraday had a point. And that point was one reason he himself was collecting samples at an almost frantic pace. A glacier was a near-perfect place for his kind of research. During its formation, as it accumulated snow, it trapped organic remains: pollen, plant fibers, animal remains. Later, as the glacier retreated, melting slowly away, it gracefully yielded up those secrets once again. This was an ideal gift for a paleoecologist, a treasure trove from the past.

Except there was nothing slow or graceful about this glacier's retreat. It was falling to pieces with alarming speed--and taking its secrets with it.

As if on cue, there was another ear-shattering explosion from the face of the glacier, another shuddering cascade of ice. Marshall glanced toward the sound, feeling a mixture of irritation and impatience. A much larger section of the glacier's face had fallen away this time. With a sigh, he bent toward his specimens, then abruptly swiveled back in the direction of the glacier. Among the fractured ice boulders at its base, he could see that part of the mountain face beneath had been exposed by the calving. He squinted at it for a moment. Then he called over to Faraday.

"You've got the field glasses, don't you?"

"Right here."

Marshall walked toward him. The biologist had pulled the binoculars from a pocket and was holding them out with a heavily gloved hand. Marshall took them, breathed on the eyepieces to warm them, wiped them free of mist, then raised them toward the glacier.

"What is it?" Faraday said, excitement kindling in his voice. "What do you see?"

Marshall licked his lips and stared at what the fallen ice had revealed. "It's a cave," he replied.


An hour later, they stood before the icy rubble at the Fear glacier's front face. The freezing rain had stopped, and a weak sun struggled to pierce the gunmetal clouds. Marshall rubbed his arms briskly, trying to warm himself. He looked around at their little group. Sully had returned, bringing with him Ang Chen, the team's graduate student. Except for Penny Barbour, their computer scientist, the entire expedition was now assembled at the terminal moraine.

The cave lay directly ahead, its mouth black against the clear blue of the glacial ice. To Marshall, it looked like the barrel of a monstrous gun. Sully stared into it, chewing distractedly on his lower lip.

"Almost a perfect cylinder," he said.

"It's undoubtedly a branch pipe," Faraday said. "Mount Fear's riddled with them."

"The base is," Marshall replied. "But it's very unusual to see one at this altitude."

Abruptly, another section of ice front calved off the glacier about half a mile south, collapsing in house-sized blue chunks at its base and throwing up a cloud of ice shards. Chen started violently, and Faraday covered his ears against the roar. Marshall grimaced as he felt the mountain shudder beneath his feet.

It took several minutes for the echoes to die away. At last, Sully grunted. He glanced from the ice face, to the mouth of the cave, to Chen. "Got the video camera?"

Chen nodded and patted the equipment bag slung over one shoulder.

"Fire it up."

"You're not planning on going in, are you?" Faraday said.

Instead of answering, Sully straightened to his full five feet six inches, sucking in his paunch and adjusting the hood of his parka, readying himself for the camera lens.

"It's not a good idea," Faraday went on. "You know how brittle the lava formations are."

"That's not all," Marshall said. "Didn't you see what just happened? More ice could calve off and bury the entrance at any minute."

Sully looked back at the cave indecisively. "They'd want us to."

"They" referred to Terra Prime, the cable channel devoted to science and nature that was underwriting the expedition.

Sully rubbed one gloved hand against his chin. "Evan, Wright, you can stay out here. Ang will follow me in with the camera. If anything happens, get the army guys to chop us out."

"The hell with that," Marshall said immediately, grinning. "If you discover buried treasure, I want a cut."

"You said it yourself. It's not safe."

"All the more reason you need another hand," Marshall replied.

Sully's lower lip protruded truculently, and Marshall waited him out. Then the climatologist relented. "Okay. Wright, we'll be as quick as we can."

Faraday blinked his watery blue eyes but remained silent.

Sully brushed stray flakes of snow from his parka, cleared his throat. He glanced up a little gingerly at the ice front. Then he positioned himself before the camera. "We're standing at the face of the glacier," he said in a hushed, melodramatic voice. "The retreating ice has exposed a cave, nestled in the flank of the mountain. We're preparing to explore it now." He paused dramatically, then signaled for Chen to stop recording.

"Did you really say 'nestled' just now?" Marshall asked.

Sully ignored this. "Let's go." He pulled a large flashlight out of his parka pocket. "Ang, train the camera on me as we go inside."

He started forward, the gangly Chen obediently following in his wake. After a moment, Marshall pulled out his own flashlight and swung in behind them.

They picked their way slowly and carefully through the debris field. A few of the blocks of ice were the size of a fist; others, the size of a dormitory. In the weak sunlight, they glowed the pale blue of an October sky. Runnels of meltwater trickled past. As the three continued, the shadow of the glacier fell over them. Marshall looked up apprehensively at the vast wall of ice but said nothing.

Close up, the cave mouth looked even blacker. It exhaled a chill breath that pinched at Marshall's half-frozen nose. As Sully had said, it was quite round: the typical secondary vent of a dead volcano. The glacier had smoothed the surrounding rock face to almost a mirror finish. Sully poked at the blackness with his flashlight. Then he turned toward Chen. "Turn that off a moment."

"Okay." The student lowered the camera.

Sully paused, then glanced at Marshall. "Faraday wasn't joking. This whole mountain is one big pile of fractured lava. Keep on the lookout for any weaknesses. If the tube seems at all unstable, we turn back immediately."

He looked back at Chen, nodded for him to start filming again. "We're going in," he intoned for the camera's benefit. Then he turned and stepped into the cave.

The roof wasn't especially low--at least ten feet--yet Marshall ducked instinctively as he followed Chen inside. The cave bored straight into the mountain, descending at a gentle grade. They proceeded cautiously, flashlight beams playing over the lava walls. It was even colder in here than out on the ice field, and Marshall snugged the hood of his parka tightly around his face.

"Hold up," he said. The beam of his flashlight had caught a hairline fracture in the braids of lava. He let his light travel along its length, then pressed at it gingerly with one hand.

"Looks solid," he said.

"Then let's proceed," Sully replied. "Carefully."

"It's amazing this tunnel hasn't collapsed under the weight of the glacier," said Chen.

They moved deeper into the cave, treading cautiously. When they spoke, it was in low tones, almost whispers.

"There's a coating of ice beneath the snow here," Sully said after a minute. "Spans the entire floor. Remarkably even."

"And it's getting deeper the farther we go," replied Marshall. "At some point, this branch pipe must have been filled with water."

From the Paperback edition.

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Terminal Freeze 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 144 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a tantalizing, thrilling, scary story you would not want to read alone in the dark. It reminds me of two movies, The Thing From Another World made in 1951 and the remake of the movie by John Carpenter called The Thing made in 1982. The best part is that the book's plot is much better than either of these movies. It is just not a typical monster plot that happens to be set in the Arctic, but it is an exciting suspense thriller, that has a government conspiracy twist, and it is creepy and scary. The setting makes the mood of the story even more deadly. It takes place in a government owned facility that has little lighting, plenty of old dark rooms tht have not been used in years, and it located in deep in the Arctic region. The characters are scientists who accidently find something in a cave while researching the Arctic region. Naturally they are warned by the local Native Americans to leave it alone. Will they do that? No, there wouldn't be a great story is they did. This book has good characters you care about and some you just don't like at all. Don't worry though because the jerky characters get their just desserts. The atmosphere is creey, dark, and cold. Mr. Child sets the story like a roller coaster ride. He does not weigh down the story with a lot of description. Once the creature is found, the story just surges to the end. It is what I describe as a "guilty pleasure" book. I read it quickly, and it was just pure fun!!!! There is a twist at the end that makes the book even more clever. The twist will give you "food for thought" about the ending. I don't to tell you to much about the plot as it would spoil it for you. It is my favorite of Lincoln Child's books. Read his other books as they are good too. If you love fast moving stories that are scary, chilling, thrilling, and have little twists and turns in them, this book you will love.
ChrisinGVille More than 1 year ago
CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT! I guess, based on the other reader's reviews, that my take on this effort by Child is not universal. The premise is great! The setting is perfect, reminiscent of The Thing but I found the story itself to be absolutely ludicrous. The discovery of the creature is an excellent lead-in for scary happenings but the whole idea of the site being taken over by that coincidentally insane? film maker and network exec to be preposterous. And then, the creature itself is not very well developed and the demise of the camp inhabitants is dull and predictable. And the local native guy served in the US Military there, at the camp? Uh huh... The lab experiments at the camp in the years gone by were unrelated to the appearance of the creatures? And, oh by the way, in the last few sentences Child introduces the idea that the creatures were from space, left here many years ago... Sorry but Child is much better than this... this was one of the lamest executions on a great concept that I've read...
christytilleryfrench More than 1 year ago
Paleoecologist Evan Marshall is part of a scientific team studying the effects of global warming in Alaska's Federal Wildlife Zone. Exploring an ice cave, the team discovers a mysterious animal frozen in ice. When their sponsor, a media conglomerate, learns of this, they send a film crew to the Zone to film a documentary about the unthawing of the animal. But once the unthawing begins, the animal disappears. The film's director suspects the scientists have something to do with it, which they deny. When one of his employees is found slashed to death, the scientists begin to suspect the animal may not have been dead, after all. Lincoln Child delivers a suspense-filled thriller, setting a host of characters, from military men, to scientists, to a film crew in a remote area, in the middle of a snowstorm with a killing machine wreaking havoc. The usual obsessive persona is present in the form of demanding director, flanked by flunkies catering to his every whim, nonsensical or not. Marshall is an empathetic character, a scientist dealing with a past trauma who has sworn to never again hold a gun in his hand but is forced to. Once the action gets going, the plot becomes fast-paced and tense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lincoln Child is capable of writing a more engaging novel. The plot is intriguing, but the development of it is meandering and could be developed quickly. However as a book to pass the hours with, it does work.
Trueread More than 1 year ago
I read Terminal Freeze expecting Child's usual exciting storytelling that he has become so well known for and I was not disappointed. I was transported to the especially alien enviroment of the far North and found the vivid details very captivating. The story held my attention to the very end and my only regret is that I have finished a great read and will have to wait for Child's next story to be released.
magggs More than 1 year ago
Nothing deep or profound, but the usual action/science thriller Child and his cohort Douglas Preston do so well. As always, the unlikelihood of the underlying events (a prehistoric killing machine frozen in the ice for millennia miraculously thaws out and begins wreaking various and sundry forms of havoc on a scientific expedition funded by a news outfit) is disguised by a very realistic, jaded view of what makes today's society tick, and gives an air of credibility to a lot of whopping impossibilities. A fun read, not to be taken too seriously, but definitely entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walked in"why so depressed?" She asked. She walked over and sat down next to her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She layed there depressed under a bed sheet
James_of_Scottsdale More than 1 year ago
Like many others I am a big fan of the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child collaborations, especially the Pendergast series. Yet I find their individual efforts much less compelling. This is probably Child's best effort to date, definitely better than Death Match and Utopia. (I haven't read Deep Storm yet.) But it is still a fairly routine thriller with some scary scenes that never really builds to a climax. Part of the problem is that the characters are so one-dimensional I didn't care whether they lived or died. The other part is that we've seen it all before. Comparisons between this book and the movie entitled The Thing (the original Howard Hawks/James Arness version, not the one with Kurt Russell) are inevitable. A group of scientists at an isolated outpost in the Arctic Circle discover a strange creature that has been frozen in the ice for thousands (millions?) of years. They unwittingly let it thaw out, thereby (naturally) bringing it back to life. Mayhem ensues. They try to kill it with conventional weapons. More mayhem. Finally they use their brains. End of story. Except for an unnecssary epilogue which suggests THE THING might have been FROM ANOTHER WORLD! (Gasp!) OK. I admit I'm being a bit unfair. As I said, there are some genuinely scary moments. And there are some major differences from the movie too. Take the isolation, for instance. They may be isolated, but they manage to bring in a professor of medieval history who holds the key to the mystery. (I kid you not.) Which leads to an old Eskimo who knows more than he is telling. And then there is an entire documentary film crew (complete with an obnoxious artiste as director and an even more obnoxious diva as host/narrator) which shows up halfway through the book to provide more opportunity for mayhem. There is even an Ice Road Trucker. On second thought, rent the movie, skip the book.
Josie123 More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of both Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child and this books fits right into their style. I actually found this almost impossible to put down. Has traces of "The Thing" and works off the "cut off from the world" theme. There is a hat tip to the relic books and I love crossovers in writing. (Stephen King employes this alot.) I greatly enjoyed this latest installment from Mr. Child.
Anonymous 16 days ago
Good suspence
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
could have been very scary turned out to be very silly
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Zlanie More than 1 year ago
Kind of a typical story but fun read . Monsters, government conspiracy, lots of people die.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The creature in this book is quite similar in appearance and ferocity as to the one in Relic. The story keeps you steadily turning the pages in anticipation of what might be lurking around the next dark corner. The Tunit shaman with the tales of his people & the introduction of the Pendergast-like character, Logan, were quite mysterious & fascinating. In addition, what a sight it would be to see a crimson aurora borealus! This is a must-read for fans of Mr. Childs!
TurningThePagesBlog More than 1 year ago
*POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT* A couple days ago I finally was in the mood to give this book a try. I'm a big fan of the Pendergast series that Lincoln Child co-authors with Douglas Preston and I've been curious to see how his standalone novels that he writes alone would turn out to be and I knew when I read the summary of this one that it would be a good place to start. Terminal Freeze turned out to be a very quick read which I wasn't expecting at all. I was expecting it to be written at the same pace as the above mentioned series he co-authors but that was not the case at all with this one. Don't get me wrong, just because it was a quick read doesn't mean that it wasn't a good read because it was. The novel centers around a scientific expedition to the remotest of places in the arctic. While on the expedition the main character Marshall's team makes a remarkable discovery that puts everyones lives in danger. Not heeding the warning by the leader of the local Tunit tribe people begin to die, but no one knows what is killing the victims except the local tribesman. I'm always a sucker for thriller novels that take place in remote places and you have to admit the Arctic is pretty darned remote so it makes a thriller novel that much more chilling (pun intended) for it to take place there. I liked that the novel took place at a remote military installation because for me I like my thriller novels that have "mysterious" creatures to have lots of fire power. There was a hell of a lot of action in this novel and I enjoyed the blood and gore of it as well as the legend and mystery behind the creature, however the creature could have been written about in a more detailed manner and I did find that the story glazed over a lot about the creatures mannerisms and that the creature didn't make a real appearance (where it was described while making a kill) until rather late in the novel for my tastes. I also think that while Marshall was a likable character that he along with the others were rather one dimensional, they had very little depth and I wish that more of Marshall's past had been explained and that we had gotten to know him and the other characters more. Despite my issues with the lack of detailing in the creature as well as the one dimensional characters the action in the novel made it entirely worth the read. It was fast past and adrenalin filled and I had no idea who would be the next one killed so it kept me guessing. Overall, it was a fun read, it kept me interested and I enjoyed it. I would recommend this one to thriller fans with a hint of horror and mysterious beasts as well or if you just want a quick read that will have you at the edge of your seats. I can't wait to read my next Lincoln Child novel and I'm really glad that I have another one in transit from the library.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
lifebytheshore More than 1 year ago
At first it had me going, all the way to the end. This is definitely one of his best books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
bravewarrior More than 1 year ago
PB/Thriller: I read this in three days only because I decided it would not be a good thing to fake sickness and call in to work. (Not that I have ever done that before. I swear.) Okay, I'm bias towards the pseudo science genre and this one was great. There was great flow between story, suspense, and explaining the science. There are no slow parts. The plot is simple: John Carpenter's The Thing with a touch of the Relic verses humanity. There are secret rooms, mysterious characters, protagonist and heroes. Did I mention a great "Oh, crap" moment. The only thing that is not explained in the end is, what happened to Wolff? I definitely recommend it.
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