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Literature / Ice Station

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At the bottom of the the coldest place on Earth...the heat is on...

Antarctica is about to explode.

Hailed as "More Explosive than Die Hard and faster than Speed," Ice Station makes a considerable case for its inclusion in the action movie hall-of-fame. Surprising, considering it's a novel.

Written by Matthew Reilly in 1998, Ice Station is the riveting story of Lieutenant Shane Schofield, aka Scarecrow, and his crack team of US Marines, whose mission is to secure an important discovery at an Antarctic research station.

Meanwhile, Action Hero Schofield takes the opportunity to kill French commandos, Orca whales, British commandos, guys with crossbows, traitorous American commandos, and even a submarine.

This book contains examples of:

  • Adapted Out: The audio drama removes Legs Lane, Mitch Healy, and Samurai Lau.
  • America Saves the Day: Played straight and subverted, with backstabbing moles planted in Scarecrow's group that are part of a larger, American organization.
  • Anyone Can Die: Scarecrow starts with 16 Marines. By the end of the book, he has four left. One of them loses her lower leg, and another leaves the service between books due to the massive trauma suffered.
  • Area 51: The book mentions that UFO storage facilities have been built in the Nevada desert. They've remained completely empty.
  • Artificial Limbs: Mother loses her leg to a Orca, an unpleasant surprise to a shark in Scarecrow.
  • Artistic Licence: It's speculated the French were able to reach Wilkes Station so quickly because their special forces were already at the nearby French research station on a training exercise. Military exercises are prohibited by the Antarctic Treaty. Military personnel and equipment are allowed in Antarctica, but only for scientific purposes. This might be intentional, as one of the book's subplots is how countries publicly support international treaties, while casually violating them behind the scenes.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Jean Petard, leader of the French forces; Trevor Barnaby, leader of the British; Chuck Kowalski, leader of the IGC.
  • Briar Patching: Scarecrow tricks Mr. Nero into opening a retractable bridge during a Mexican Standoff by looking nervously at the controls. He'd also tied two grenades across the opening so the pins would be pulled when it retracted.
  • Broken Pedestal: Trevor Barnaby is repeatedly mentioned as a mentor to Scarecrow before he shows up leading the murderous SAS troops who are after the ship, although Schofield takes this fairly well.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Schofield mentions his former trainer Trevor Barnaby several times before Barnaby shows up leading a team of Evil Brits willing to kill Schofield to get the MacGuffin.
    • Andrew Trent is the reason Scarecrow is wise to the possibility of his team being infiltrated and is presumed dead - then it turns out he survived and has been lying low. He spends the novel trying to provide Schofield with info on his ICG moles and stops the senior men of the ICG killing him at the end.
  • Child Prodigy: Kirsty is the child of scientists - her understanding of Fibonacci numbers is crucial to the group cracking the stealth jet's security.
  • Closed Circle: The entire book takes place within and immediately surrounding the ice station.
  • Cold Sniper: Snake. It also helps that he's the mole.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Book II, after the SAS feed his father to a killer whale in Ice Station.
  • Defiant to the End: Schofield when captured by the Brits. Fuck Britannia indeed. To whit, Schofield manages to turn his own execution by the SAS into a complete turn around and kills Barnabay's entire unit with a single grenade.
  • Determinator: Schofield will not be deterred form his mission and survives everything that gets thrown at him. It sets the tone well for the rest of the series.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: As advertised on the back of the book.
  • Dwindling Party: Twelve marines arrive, but due to the French, the British, and the ICG, only four survive.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Contest (Matthew Reilly), his first written book, has much more sci-fi elements (to the point of including aliens) and a lot less emphasis on the military. Ice Station has less-but-still-prevalent sci-fi, such as the spaceship MacGuffin that turns out to be man-made and still quite advanced, while backstory on the ICG provides implications for Ancient Astronauts.
  • Eerie Arctic Research Station: The novel takes place in and around the Wilkes Station in Antarctica. In reality, Wilkes was a research station established in January of 1957 on Vincennes Bay, consisting of several squat, trailer-like structures set on solid ground. It was abandoned in 1969 when the structures had degraded to the point of becoming a fire hazard. But the Wilkes Station described in the book is a technically advanced (for the 1990's) structure several stories deep in the ice, built around a central open shaft allowing access to a large borehole leading to the water beneath - perfect for pitched gun battles on the balconies surrounding the shaft and desperate maneuvers to avoid the frigid waters and killer whales circling below. As described in the book:
    "Austin was standing at the edge of the large, round pool that formed the base of the Wilkes Ice Station. Five stories deep, Wilkes was a remote coastal research station, a giant underground cylinder that had literally been carved into the ice shelf. A series of narrow catwalks and ladders hugged the circumference of the vertical cylinder, creating a wide circular shaft in the middle of the station. Doorways led off each of the catwalks — into the ice — creating the five different levels of the station. Like many others before them, the residents of Wilkes had long since discovered that the best way to endure the harsh polar weather was to live under it."
  • Evil Brit: Trevor Barnaby of the SAS is a selfish, pitiless Hero Killer.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Shane Schofield had his eyes cut open with a razor blade for being caught flying recon. He had his eyes repaired, but still has the scars and a new callsign "Scarecrow".
    • Fox used the arrow sticking out of her helmet to stab the eye of the French soldier who shot her with it. Described in infrared.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Intelligence Convergence Group, a joint venture between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Reconnaissance Office, tasked with acquiring any sort of technological advantage to maintain America's superpower status and killing anyone who knows about said advantage.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Admiral Clayton and the rest of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At least until Clayton gets vaporized on the deck of Wasp.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • French commando Jean Petard is killed by his own final trap of claymore mines after the Marine Rebound cleverly rewires them to face inwards rather than outwards.
    • Schofield kills almost the entire British SAS unit using their own signature nitrogen grenades.
  • Improvised Weapon: Gas-powered grappling hooks are used as weapons at one point. Very effectively.
  • Kill It with Ice: Liquid Nitrogen Grenades make an appearance, but don't cause the instant freezing usually seen with this trope. Instead, people exposed to them freeze from the outside in.
  • Knife Fight: The characters are reduced to this when the air becomes mixed with a flammable gas.
  • Leave No Witnesses: The goal of the French paratroopers, the British SAS, and the ICG, all of whom want to get their hands on the spaceship and not leave anyone alive to tell anybody it exists. Basically, only Schofield's Force Recon is interested in getting anybody out alive.
  • Legacy Character: After "Book" Riley is killed, the next two books have his son - with the fitting callsign of "Book 2" join Schofield's unit.
  • Legally Dead: Andrew Trent and later Schofield thanks to the ICG.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Barnaby makes Scarecrow and the traitor Snake fight to the death in Ice Station for his own amusement.
  • Made of Iron: Schofield and Mother. Schofield runs around doing crazy stunts with a broken nose and rib for the second half of the book, and Mother manages to survive by herself for most of the book missing the bottom half of her left leg.
  • Mauve Shirt: Most of Schofield's squad count as this; Santa Cruz, Rebound, Lau, Montana, Hollywood, Healy and Legs Lane don't have much in the way of character development. Healy, Hollywood and Legs Lane last about five minutes before dying, Lau is suffocated without so much as a line, Montana is The Mole and manages to kill Cruz before dying himself. Surprisingly, Rebound is lucky enough to walk away unharmed.
  • Medium Awareness:
    Kirsty: When you…when you went under the hovercraft, I thought…I thought you were dead.
    Schofield: Hey. It's OK. It's all right. I'm not going to die on you. I am not going to die on you. I mean, hey, I can't die. I'm the hero of this story.
  • The Mole: Several as part of the ICG. Much of the drama arises from the fact that while Scarecrow is sure his team has them after a wounded man is murdered, he doesn't know who they are until relatively late in the game.
  • Mysterious Antarctica: Ice Station is set here, with an American station finding what appears to be a spaceship, with the French and British trying to seize it and the ICG trying to kill off Scarecrow's team so the wrong Americans don't control it. Turns out it's an experimental rival to the US Stealth bomber developed in Antarctica precisely because of its isolation.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: ICG mole Snake, then undiscovered, shoots Scarecrow, killing him. After checking he was dead, Snake then kicks Schofield's body into a pool of freezing water, which restarts his heart somehow and leaves him alive to stop the ICG.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: Renshaw discovers this when he tries to threaten SAS leader Trevor Barnaby.
  • One Last Smoke: In the scene where the British soldiers are about to kill Schofield by lowering him headfirst into a pool of killer whales. The commander gives him a last request- "A blindfold? Cigarette? Shot of brandy?" and Schofield makes a last minute plan, opts for the cigarettenote , and uses it to set fire to the detonator cord entwined in his handcuffs, and then he escapes, kills them all and becomes a legend for killing all the bad guys and blowing everything up, classic Scarecrow style..
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: All the Marines go by their call-signs, but especially Montana whose real name is only mentioned right at the beginning. Probably because mentioning it more than that would telegraph the fact that he's an ICG mole. Also true of the French paratroopers, who all use pseudonyms; their real names are never revealed.
  • Precursors: Sarah Hensleigh speculates on a prior human civilaisation being the source of the spaceship in the cavern.
  • Put on a Bus: Rebound and most of the surviving scientists at the base make it to a neighboring station in the veichles while the core cast is less lucky.
  • Realpolitik: Discussed surrounding the re-ratification of NATO and the hidden squabbles of its members in the years following the end of the Cold War. The book points out that NATO is an alliance of convenience, not friendship and that the European NATO countries would be just as happy to see America fall as any of America's declared enemies.
  • Red Shirt: Healy is introduced in the last tenth of page 89. He's dead before the page even ends.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stupid Evil: As Scarecrow points out, Snake's starting killing his teammates for the ICG after the French defeat was exceptionally dumb as no-one was 100% sure that the situation was fully secure. All it does is ensure the team is even more handicapped when the SAS arrive, forcing them to retreat and leaving Snake himself behind.
  • This Is a Drill: Schofield uses a drilling machine as an Improvised Weapon to kill Snake. It's a one hit KO!
  • Trick Bomb: The SAS liquid nitrogen grenades.
  • Tropical Epilogue: Played with. The fate of a minor character from the backstory is revealed when the epilogue zips to a South American beach, where a scavenger finds debris in the ocean from the character's crashed plane.