Ice Station

10/12/2017 at 6:32 AM (Books, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Ice Station is Australian thriller writer Matthew Reilly’s second novel, released in 1999.

When a diving team at Wilkes Ice Station is killed, the ice station sends out a distress signal. A team of United States Recon Marines led by Shane Schofield, under the code name of Scarecrow, arrives at the station. At the station, he finds lots of French scientists have arrived, and several more arrive after the Marines’ join them. The French reveal them to be soldiers and a fight ensues at the station, claiming the lives of Scarecrow’s men along with several scientists and most of the French soldiers. Mother loses her leg, Samurai is badly injured, and two French scientists are captured.

Schofield decides to send a team down to find an object below the ice where the diving team was going. Later, Samurai is found strangled, leaving the only people he trusts to be one of the scientists, Sarah Hensleigh and another soldier named Montana as he was with them at the time of Samurai’s death. Hensleigh, Montana and two other Marines, Gant and Santa Cruz, are sent down to where the diving team vanished. While alone, Schofield is shot and killed. He later wakes up, found to have been accidentally resurrected by his attacker, and is in the care of scientist James Renshaw, the believed killer of one of the other scientists at Wilkes. Watching a video of Schofield’s death, they view the attacker and discover it to be Snake, one of Schofield’s men. The two capture Snake before he is able to kill the wounded Mother.

Meanwhile in the United States, Andrew Trent and Pete Cameron meet; Cameron is a news reporter and Trent was a former Marine using the alias Andrew Wilcox to avoid being found by the U.S military who had tried to kill him a few years back. They hear the distress call from Schofield and Trent realises what happened to him was duplicating itself in regards to Schofield.

The team learns of an impending attack by the SAS and decide to flee the station. During the escape via stolen vehicles, Schofield and Renshaw’s is pushed off a cliff, Schofield’s close friend Book and the step-daughter of Sarah Hensleigh, Kirsty, are captured, while Rebound escapes with four of the scientists. Schofield manages to destroy a French submarine and he and Renshaw begin their journey back towards it. Meanwhile, the SAS Brigadier Trevor Barnaby kills the two remaining French scientists and feeds Book to a pod of killer whales. Schofield returns to the station and manages to kill all of the SAS and Snake, and save Kirsty. Schofield receives a message from Trent with a list of members of a secret service known as the Intelligence Convergence Group (ICG) which includes Snake and Montana.

Gant and her team find what appears to be an alien ship, but which turns out to be a spy ship. Montana kills Santa Cruz, but is killed by mutated elephant seals. Schofield and the two others arrive and Hensleigh reveals herself to be an ICG agent, but is soon killed by a wounded Gant. Remembering the station is about to be destroyed, Schofield, Gant, Renshaw, Kirsty and her pet fur seal named Wendy escape on the spy plane and land on the USS Wasp. They later destroy the plane using a guided missile fired earlier. It is revealed Mother escaped Wilkes before its destruction and was luckily saved by US forces.

The survivors get to Hawaii where they are nearly killed by an ICG agent before being saved by Andrew Trent, Pete and Allison Cameron, and the captain of the USS Wasp. Renshaw assumes custody of Kirsty since he is her godfather, and Schofield doesn’t leave Gant’s side until she recovers.




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Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language

10/30/2014 at 12:07 PM (Books) (, , , , , )

9780141040080

I’ve just been taken on an armchair tour on the history of English via Bill Bryson’s entertaining book Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language. I explored this genre a little bit when I wrote my post on the Gift of the Gob but this book goes into a lot more fun detail about the origins of English into its ultimate status as the world’s most spoken tongue. This book was published a while back so some of the notions do seem rather dated and erroneous as they seem to have been sourced from places you could not rely on as factual authorities. It is still an entertaining read.

Bryson first explores the ambiguities of English as understood by a foreigner. For example in English, one tells a lie but the truth, the sentence “I could care less” is equivalent to “I couldn’t care less” and the phrase “all items not on sale” means some items are on sale. He explains the intricacy of English by pointing out in the phrase ‘I went swimming’, swimming is a past participle while in the phrase ‘Swimming is good for you’, it is a gerund despite being the same word. He also goes into some detail about foreign words in other languages and I have found out that in Japanese the word for foreigner translates as ‘stinking of foreign hair’, Italians call syphilis ‘the French disease’ and con games get called ‘American swindles’ in France and Italy.

Next I found insight into how the possibility of speech evolved. The evolutionary change which pushed man’s larynx deeper into his throat brought about with it the possibility to communicate by talking. So this is why humans can talk and animals can’t. Then history of linguistics is given a mention by discussing the contributions of Sir William Jones, who discovered there were commonalities across languages despite geographic boundaries and proposed a theory that all classical languages derived from the same source. For example, brother is known as bruder in German, bhrathair in Gaelic, bhrata in Sanskrit and biradar in Persian. It may seem tenuous but I can see a connection.

The author then explains how language always has the same purpose but is achieved in multiple ways. When it comes to features of grammar and syntax, such as number, tense or gender, they can vary depending on the language. For example, the Japanese language doesn’t use plurals, in Russian nouns have twelve different inflections and Irish Gaelic lacks the words yes and no. Then he goes on to speak about cultures in which languages co-exist and how majority languages usually dominate in spite of careful measures taken to prevent minority languages from dying out.

I found the overview of how English developed in England under the language spoken by Anglo-Saxons quite informative and interesting such as the fact their pagan gods are preserved for antiquity in the names of our weekdays; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday stand for Tiv, Woden, Thor and Frig and Saturday, Sunday and Monday stand for Saturn, the sun and the moon. The English spoken changed after the invasion of the Vikings which meant a lot of Scandinavian terms became part and parcel of English. English language changed even more after the 1066 Norman conquest because their French origins resulted in the aristocracy speaking in French and while the peasants continued to speak in English.

Next comes an overview of the richness of the English vocabulary and the complexities of multiple synonyms, polysemy and contronyms. A Danish linguist said words were formed in four ways: adding to them, inventing them, removing from them and leaving them alone. The author suggests two more ways: making mistakes and borrowing from other languages.

The minor treatise in orthoepy lets readers know none of the letters in English can be relied on for consistency. The c in race, rack and rich are all pronounced differently or remain silent like the b in debt or the a in bread. Most words are not pronounced in the way it is spelled.

The discourse on dialects made me aware of something I did not know before.  Apparently one of the people quite interested in the study of dialects was J.R. R. Tolkien who later became famous as the author of The Hobbit. Dialects in England apparently function differently to the way dialects work in North America. It does not only need to distinguished by region or locality as there are occupational dialects, ethnic dialects and class dialects.

Have you ever wondered how the alphabet came into being? It has evolved from pictographs. People used pictographs to represent things but once they hit on the idea of using them to represent sound, the possibility of having an alphabet came into being. The two possible ways of rendering speech into writing is then discussed by outlining their pros and cons. Apparently English spelling is erratic because for a long time, people were indifferent to using consistent spelling because dialects prospered as there was no central authority for the English language. Things changed after the invention of the Gutenberg printing press and standardised spelling was achieved by 1650. At the very same time, the Great Vowel Shift was underway. People changed the way they pronounced vowels in vast groups of words, but the publishers weren’t cognisant of the changes. This is why the: ‘ea’ sounds different in knead, bread, wear and great. English lost the /k/ sound from /kn/ words, the /w/ from /wr/ words, and the /g/ from gnat and gnaw. By the time the change was complete, writing habits had been established.

Reviewers have been rather critical of some of the author’s errors so I guess go into reading this with an aware mind. However I do think some of the errors are oversights on the parts of the editor and proofreader as they haven’t done the job of checking facts for accuracy. It is a very light-hearted approach to English language discussion so I think this is worth looking only if you enjoy the way the author, Bill Bryson, writes.

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The Persimmon Tree

01/31/2010 at 9:56 AM (Australian Literature, Books) (, , , , , , )

I have always loved the sagas of  love and tragedy by Power of One author, Bryce Courtenay. The Persimmon Tree set against the backdrop of Java under Dutch colonial rule  had me awake through the wee hours of the night, turning pages to see if the young lovers who parted in war ever reunited since in his stories, heroes do not always survive.

Persimmon Tree cover

The sailing butterfly collector and the Kinbaku – mastered heroin addict make for an interesting pair.  But the details of military operation, the knowledge of Javanese culture portrayed in the book and the way coincidences are so craftily engineered is what usually leaves me in tears.

Not to mention it makes for interesting and educational reading – one almost feels a part of a historical event when reading his books. Most people hate books that are incredibly detailed but the longer they are, the  more I like it. The Persimmon Tree is one of those.

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