I was tempted to use a picture of the movie, but reason prevailed
I've always had a fondness for Alistair MacLean. My father would return home from work in Dublin City centre and leave his wool coat steaming in the hall. There was a second hand bookshop near the train station and he would stop off on Fridays and special occasions and buy a handful of paperbacks. The rules of the game were as follows, if I'd been good, I would be directed after dinner that "You might find something interesting, if you look in my coat."
If reports were bad, these might mysteriously disappear. A little personal reconnaissance before the appointed hour was acceptable, but woe betide the Kinch minor that tried to snaffle one before his time. MacLean, Captain W.E. Johns, Richard Jeffries, Rosemary Sutcliff and a variety of boy detectives features a great deal. Henty was bigger and only came solo, as there was a limit to what Dad's pockets would hold. Curiously enough, I don't recall ever getting Ice Station Zebra.
The tale on the face of it is simple enough, there has been an accident at a British Antarctic Base and a US Navy Nuclear Submarine is dispatched to help. On board is Dr Carpenter, a mysterious Englishman, who is tasked with discovering what exactly occurred at the station.
As is traditional in an Alistair MacLean nothing is quite as it seems. Dr Carpenter, who is also a narrator, is revealed as steely eyed secret agent demonstrates the typical MacLean virtues of immense physical endurance, dogged determination and deeply cynical humour. There is no sex or romance in the story and comparatively little violence as the most brutal struggles of the book are pit man against the landscape. The nuclear submarine USS Dolphin is a prominent character in the action, this is not a techno-thriller in the Clancy mould. MacLean is far more interested in men than machine. This is a relatively short book, I read it over a day. It is also an old fashioned story in that it is one where things happen. There is precious little time for reflection or character development, not when there are Reds to outwit and icy tundras to cross.
In a strange way Ice Station Zebra has more in common with classic Christie mysteries like "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Ten Little Indians" then the bullet laced thrillers of our own day. The hero must solve a puzzle against the clock while trapped with his array of suspects. Ultimately despite his brute strength, weapons and the exotic locale, Dr Carpenter must resolve things the old fashioned way, by thinking.
And for those of you who like that sort of thing, this is exactly the sort of thing that you like.