Vulcan's Forge

Vulcan's Forge

4.0 22
by Jack Du Brul

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It begins deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, where a nuclear bomb strikes at the fiery hot heart of the earth. Churning, spewing boiling lava, a volcano rises with unnatural speed from the ocean floor -- the source of a new mineral that promises clean, limitless nuclear power.

It continues in hot spots around the globe: Hawaii, where a secessionist movement is about to

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It begins deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, where a nuclear bomb strikes at the fiery hot heart of the earth. Churning, spewing boiling lava, a volcano rises with unnatural speed from the ocean floor -- the source of a new mineral that promises clean, limitless nuclear power.

It continues in hot spots around the globe: Hawaii, where a secessionist movement is about to turn violent and the American army may be asked to fire on U.S. citizens; Washington, D.C., where the subway system becomes the site of a running gun battle; the Far East, where disrupted diplomatic negotiations jeopardize world peace; a rogue Russian submarine, circling the infant volcano.

Caught in the middle is Philip Mercer, a geologist and a one-time commando with shady contacts in all the right (or is it wrong?) places. When Mercer learns that the daughter of an old friend is being kept under armed guard in a local hospital, he vows to rescue her, not knowing that this is the first step in unraveling the fantastic secrets of Vulcan's Forge.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A nifty evil-scientist gimmick jump-starts Du Brul's thriller debut. In the 1950s, a Soviet nuclear blast creates a baby volcano in the South Pacific seabed that will take 40 years to rise to the surface. The blast also forges a new metal potentially worth billions. Fifty years later, rogue KGB agent Ivan Kerikov secretly sends a submarine to guard the emerging islandwhile he gets rich in a shady Korean deal. After the sub sinks a research ship, geologist (and ex-CIA commando) Philip Mercer races to protect lone survivor Dr. Tish Talbot, now in a D.C. hospital. Foiling an attack, he spirits Talbot to his home, strewing the streets and Washington subway with bodies. Talbot's maritime contacts lead Mercer to a KGB shipping front in New York, where more bodies pile up. Meanwhile, Takahiro Ohnishi, an agent planted in Hawaii during the Soviet era, is fomenting riots among Hawaiians demanding to secede from the U.S. (this was Soviet Plan B, in case the volcano rose in Hawaiian territory). Can Mercer stop them? Du Brul's well-calculated debts to Fleming, Cussler, Easterman and Lustbader, his technological, political and ecological research and his natural gift for storytelling bode well for a more seasoned sequel. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
A debut thriller introducing Philip Mercermine engineer, geological consultant, and the only Bond clone who carries a Derringer strapped to his testicles. A study in triple crosses, Du Brul's story tells of a 40-year plot contrived by the Russians, who want to own a newly risen underwater volcano 200 miles off Hawaii. Geological physicist Pytor Borodin and an American physicist who's studying the oceanic Bikini A-bomb test have independently discovered the same fact: that enormous underwater thermal heat, when mixed with lava, can produce the hardest fuel known to manbikinium, which, once put to use, gives off more energy than is needed to burn it. Back in 1954, Borodin had also discovered that the thinnest part of the tectonic plate in the Pacific is just 200 miles past Hawaii. So the Reds secretly sink a ship carrying an A-bomb. The plan is to detonate it on the seafloor, creating a volcano whose lava can then be processed very cheaply for bikinium, leaving the Soviets as the most powerful people on earth. But during the 40- year wait for this secret volcano to break to the surface, at which point it can be claimed as Soviet territory, the USSR empire collapses and a KGB officer decides to sell the whole plan for Vulcan's Forge to North Korea for $100 million. Enter Philip Mercer, out to save the life of on old friend's daughter, a member of a geologic survey team lost near the volcano. Much bang-bang but little kiss-kiss ensues. Meanwhile, a superbillionaire Japanese racist plots the secession of Hawaii, and Mercer, empowered by the US President, finds himself in cliffhangers more wonderfully outrageous than you'll find in Clive Cussler or Ian Fleming. A finely tuned firstinstallment in the Mercer series, buoyed by strong, fresh writing. Remember, Fleming could never top From Russia With Love, so come aboard now.

From the Publisher
"An exciting, well-honed thriller that will have Clive Cussler fans taking note of the new kid on the block."—William Hefferman, Edgar Ward Winner, author of The Dinosaur Club

"Du Brul's well-calculated debts to Fleming, Cussler, Easterman, and Lustbader, his technological, political, and ecological research, and his natural gift for storytelling bode well."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Philip Mercer Series , #1
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
408 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

The moon was a millimetric sliver hanging in the night sky like an ironic smile. A gentle easterly breeze smeared the acrid feather of smoke that coiled from the single funnel of the ore carrier Grandam Phoenix. The Pacific swells rolled the ponderous ship as easily as a lazy hammock on a summer afternoon as she cruised two hundred miles north of the Hawaiian Islands. The tranquility of the night was about to be shattered.

The Grandam Phoenix was on her maiden voyage, having slipped down the ways in Kobe, Japan, just two months earlier. Her final fitting and sea trials had been rushed so that she could begin paying off the massive debts incurred by the company during her construction. Built with the latest technological advances in safety and speed, she was an example of the new breed of specialized cargo ship. The Second World War had taught that the efficiency of a specialized vessel far outweighed the cost in its design and construction. The owners maintained that their newest ship would prove that these principles worked as well for civilian craft as they did for the military. The 442-foot-long ore carrier was to become the flagship of the line as the shipping business greedily expanded into the booming Pacific markets.

Soon after taking command of the Grandam Phoenix, Captain Ralph Linc learned that the owners had a very different fate in store for their newest ship from the one proposed to her underwriters.

Not long after the development of maritime insurance, unscrupulous owners and crews intentionally began scuttling their vessels in order to collect often substantial claims. The underwriters had no recourse but to pay out unless someone, usually a crew member feeling twinges of guilt, came forward with the truth. For sinking the ore carrier, the crew of the Grandam Phoenix would receive bonuses large enough to ensure their silence. If the swindle worked, and there seemed no reason it wouldn't, the owners were looking at a settlement not only for the twenty-million-dollar value of the vessel, but also that of her cargo, listed as bauxite ore from Malaysia, but in reality worthless yellow gravel.

Captain Linc held true to his genre, a tough man with a whiskey and cigarette tortured voice and far-gazing eyes. Standing squarely as his ship rolled with the seas, he ground out his Lucky Strike. And lit another.

Linc had served in the U.S. Merchant Marine all through World War II. With losses rivaled only by the Marine Corps, the Merchant Marine seemed to be the service for maniacs or suicides. Yet Linc had managed not only to survive but flourish. By 1943 he had his own command, running troops and material to the hellfires of the Pacific theater. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he never once lost a vessel to the enemy.

At war's end, he, like many others, found that there were too many men and too few ships. During the late forties and early fifties, Linc become just another Yankee prowling the Far East, taking nearly any command offered to him. He ran questionable cargoes for shadowy companies and learned to keep his mouth shut.

When first approached by the Phoenix's owners, Linc had thought he was being offered the opportunity of a lifetime. No longer would he have to scrounge for a ship, prostituting his integrity to remain at sea. They were giving him a chance once again to be the proud captain, the master of their flagship. It wasn't until after the contracts had been signed that the company told Linc about the predestined fate of his vessel. It took two days and a sizable bonus for his bitterness to give way to acceptance.

Now stationed on the bridge, a cup of cooling coffee in a weathered hand, Linc stared at the dark sea and cursed. He hated the corporate people who could arbitrarily decide to scuttle such a great ship. They didn't understand the bond between captain and vessel. For the sake of profit, they were about to destroy a beautiful living thing. The idea sickened Linc to the bone. He hated himself for accepting, for allowing himself to be part of such a loathsome act.

"Position," Ralph Linc barked.

Before the position could be given, a crewman stooped over the radar repeater and said in a remote voice, "Contact, twelve miles dead ahead."

Linc glanced at the chronometer on the bulkhead to his left. The contact would be the rendezvous vessel that would pick up the crew after the Phoenix was gone. They were right on time and in position. "Good work, men."

He had been given very specific and somewhat strange orders concerning the location, course, and time that he was to sink his ship. He assumed the North Pacific had been chosen because of her unpredictable weather patterns. The weather here could turn deadly without a moment's notice, building waves that could swamp a battleship and whipping up winds that literally tore the surface from the ocean. When the time came for the insurance inquiry, the rendezvous vessel would corroborate any story they manufactured.

"You know the drill, gentlemen," Linc growled, lighting a cigarette from the glowing tip of his last. "Engines All Stop, helm bring us to ninety-seven-point-five degrees magnetic."

This precise but inexplicable positioning of the vessel complied exactly with Linc's final orders from the head office. They had given no reason for this action and Linc knew enough not to pry. The engine speed was reduced, the rhythmic throb diminished until it was almost imperceptible. The ship's wheel blurred as the young seaman cranked it around.


"We're coming up on ninety-seven degrees, sir, as ordered."


"Eleven miles."

Linc picked up the radio hand mike and dialed in the ship-board channel. "Now hear this: we've reached position; all crew not on duty report to the lifeboats. Engineering, emergency shutdown of the boilers and open the sea cocks on my mark. Prepare to abandon ship."

He looked around the bridge slowly, his eyes burning every detail of her into his brain. "I'm sorry, sweetheart," he mumbled.

"Ten miles," the sonar man called.

"Open the seacocks, abandon ship." Linc replaced the mike and pressed a button on the radio. A klaxon began to wail.

The cry of a dying woman, Linc thought.

Linc waited on the bridge while the crew filed out to the boat deck. He had to spend a little time alone with the ship before he left her. He grasped the rung of the oaken wheel. The wood was so new that he felt slivers pricking at his skin. Never would this wheel achieve the smooth patina of use; instead it would become so much rot on the bottom of the ocean.

"Goddamn it," Linc said aloud, then strode from the bridge.

Gone were the days of men scampering down cargo netting into boats bobbing on the surface of the sea. Ocean Freight and Cargo had spared no expense in outfitting their flagship with every modern safety device. One lifeboat was already full of men and up on the davits. The winchman waited for a curt nod from Linc before lowering the boat to the sea below.

The warm night breeze blew smoke from Linc's cigarette into his eyes as he climbed into the second lifeboat. The other men in the boat with him were subdued, ashen. They didn't talk or look each other in the eye as Linc nodded to the winchman.

The winchman threw a toggle switch and the pulleys that lowered the lifeboat began to whine. The boat hit the calm surface with a white-frothed splash. Instantly two men stood up to detach the cables that secured them to the sinking ore carrier.

Captain Linc took charge of the lifeboat, grasping the tiller in his right hand while applying power to the idling engine. The boat motored away from the Grandam Phoenix, the crew craning their necks to watch their sinking ship. The klaxon echoed emptily across the waves.

It took fifteen minutes for the ship's list to become noticeable, but after that, she went quickly. The stern lifted from the water; her two ferro-bronze propellers gleaming in the low light. The watching men heard her boilers let go of their mounts and slam through the engine room bulkheads. The screeching hiss that followed was the sound of thousands of tons of gravel pouring across the vessel's gunwales into the ocean.

Linc refused to watch his ship die. He kept his eyes trained ahead, steering toward the dim lights of the distant rendezvous ship. Yet every time he heard a new sound from the Grandam Phoenix's death throes, he cringed.

The rendezvous ship was not large, a ninety-foot general cargo freighter, the type referred to as a "stick ship" by seamen because her decks were studded with a forest of cranes and derricks. Her boxy superstructure stood amidships, her straight funnel atop it. As the two lifeboats approached, Linc could make out about a dozen men on her port rail. He guided his boat toward them.

"Captain Linc, I presume?" a voice called down cheerily.

"I'm Linc."

The reply was the rapid fire of ten Soviet-made PPSH sub-machine guns. The snail drums of the weapons could hold fifty rounds and the gunmen emptied them all into the lifeboats. The cacophony of shouts and screams, shots and ricochets, was deafening. Blood pooled on the floorboards of the boats, its sweet smell mingling with the cloud of cordite smoke.

Linc looked up at the ship, bloodied and dazed, astounded that he was still alive. Anger, fear, and pain boiled in his mind but the emotions and sensations were being driven back by darkness.

The gunmen lowered their weapons one by one as the bolts slammed into empty chambers. The lifeboat was a charnel scene of blood and mutilation, the water pouring in through the holed floor sloshed in a pink froth. In moments, both lifeboats capsized, spilling corpses into the ocean. Packs of sharks circled eagerly.

The lone unarmed man on deck had watched the massacre with flat appraising eyes. Though not yet thirty, he carried an air of authority held by only a few even twice his age. When the lifeboats capsized, he nodded to the commander of the gunmen and went into the freighter's superstructure.

Minutes later, he ducked into the ship's hold. The lights of the computing and sonar equipment packed into the cramped hold gave his skin an alien pallor.

"Depth of the target ship?" he snapped at one of the technicians bent over a sonar scope.

The target ship was of course the Grandam Phoenix as she plunged to the distant bottom.

The sonarman didn't look up from his equipment. "Six thousand feet, sinking at a thousand feet every seven minutes."

The man glanced at his watch and jotted down some numbers on a pad. After a brief pause he looked at his watch again. "Two minutes from my mark."

The hold was noisy. The sound of the ship's diesel generators filtered in through the steel walls and the air conditioners necessary to cool the computers sounded like aircraft propellers. Yet the seven men in the room could have sworn that during those two minutes there was not a sound in the world. They were too focused on their jobs to notice any distractions.

"Mark," the young man said with a casualness that was not forced.

Another crewman flipped several switches. Nothing happened.

The civilian counted down under his breath. ""

The shock wave started nearly seven thousand feet below the surface and had to travel a further ten miles to reach the ship, yet it struck only five seconds after detonation. Billions of gallons of water had been vaporized in a fireball with temperatures reaching 100,000 degrees. The main wave rushed to the surface at 150 miles per hour and threw up a dome of water half a mile across. The dome hung in the air for a full ten seconds, gravity fighting inertia, then collapsed, thunderously filling the six-thousand-foot deep hole in the Pacific Ocean.

Caught in a man-made Charybdis, the freighter tossed and pitched as if she were in a hurricane, her hull nearly out of the water one moment and almost swamped the next. The young man, the architect of such destruction, feared for a moment that he had cut the margin too thin, placed his ship too close to the epicenter. Before his concern could crack the glacial facade of his face, the sea began to calm. The huge waves leveled out and the gale wind created when the ocean fell back on itself, dissipated.

It took the young man a few minutes to reach the deck of the freighter, for she still rolled dangerously. On the horizon, a blanket of steam clung to the sea and glowed luminously in the weak moonlight.

"I have laid the foundation of Vulcan's Forge."

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What People are saying about this

William Heffernan
Vulcan's Forge is an exciting, well-honed thriller that will have Clive Cussler fans taking note of the new kid on the block.

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