Posts Tagged ‘Antarctica’

Characters attempt to stave off madness amidst the deep freeze in Matthew Iden’s entertaining thriller ‘The Winter Over’

March 18, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 18, 2018

Matthew Iden’s 2017 novel The Winter Over is an entertaining thriller set at an isolated Antarctic station beset by a growing number of troubling events.

The main character is an engineer who as the book opens is about to spend her first winter at Shackleton South Pole Research Facility. (This fictitious base is modeled after a real place, the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.) Cass Jennings and her colleagues are disturbed to discover, just days before the start of roughly nine months of isolation, that a resident has frozen to death.

That’s hardly the only blow to morale. A few weeks after the deep freeze has cut the station off from the outside world, unexplained glitches disrupt Shackleton’s heat, electrical and communications systems. The outpost’s troubles begin accumulating, placing Jennings and everyone else under extraordinary pressure.

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In a remote research base in Antarctica, ‘John Carpenter’s The Thing’ walks among us…

December 10, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 10, 2013

It is early winter in Antarctica. A dozen men are stationed at an American research base so remote that they have no means of communicating with the outside world, even by radio.

Three strangers approach unannounced. There are two men, both Norwegian. One accidentally blows himself up with a hand grenade. The other man is shot and killed after he fires his rifle at an American. And the third visitor is…not what it seems to be.

The Americans know immediately that something strange is afoot, but a visit to the Norwegians’ wrecked and abandoned base does nothing to illuminate the mystery. Soon, however, it becomes apparent that the Norwegians encountered some kind of alien life form.

This creature — this thing — can assimilate and perfectly mimic the appearances of its victims. It now seems to have infiltrated the American outpost. And it would like nothing more than to introduce itself to the animals and plants that populate the Earth’s more hospitable realms… 

This is the premise of John Carpenter’s The Thing, a 1982 science fiction/horror classic that subjects its characters and audience to a taut mixture of suspense and visceral shocks. The movie was written by Bill Lancaster based on a classic short story by John W. Campbell Jr. and directed by John Carpenter.

The man at the center of the story is helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, a pragmatic but thoughtful man of action who skates along the barrier between sanity and paranoia. MacReady is played by a bearded, intense Kurt Russell; as the story progresses, and the prospect of oblivion moves ever closer, his determination to survive — and to destroy the alien — shines through with increasing ferocity.

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Fascinating tale of ‘Alien Hunter’ fails to hit mark

November 9, 2012

Nearly everyone is taught not to judge a book by its cover, but it’s not always a lesson that sticks.

Take the case of Alien Hunter, an obscure (at least to me) 2003 science fiction outing featuring James Spader. It is not a book, of course, but a movie; the point is, I found it hard to resist forming conclusions based on the picture’s lurid green and yellow poster. Everything about the artwork and type (“Earth just got its final warning!”) screams B movie.

Spader’s appearance in the infamous 2000 sci-fi flop Supernova certainly did nothing to discredit my assumptions about Alien Hunter.

But while watching Alien Hunter just the other night, I found that my conclusions didn’t quite pan out.

The beginning is certainly not promising. There’s a brief opening set in New Mexico circa 1947, in which something mysterious and other-worldly appears to occur. We then switch briefly to Antarctica, where a mysterious signal has been intercepted, before popping into the 2003 classroom of University of California at Berkeley lecturer Julian Rome (Spader).

An expert in communications and decryption, and an infamous Lothario, Rome used to be an “alien hunter” with the discontinued SETI project. (The acronym, many readers will know, stands for search for extraterrestrial intelligence.) A colleague asks him to examine data on the signal; soon, Rome is flying to an isolated Antarctic base.

The outpost’s small crew is holding a block of ice containing the source of the signal in its maintenance bay. The ice is melting rapidly, but that’s not the only thing cooking at the small scientific base. It turns out that Rome’s former lover, Kate Brecher, is one of a trio of scientists conducting potentially ground-breaking agricultural experiments there. The sexual tension between Rome and Brecher as well as Rome and a technician named Nyla Olson is soon dialed up to maximum.

Rome is still analyzing the signal when the melting ice reveals an unusual pod. Goaded mainly by a hot-tempered Irish scientist, Michael Straub, the crew decides to cut the object open. It is a decision they come to regret…

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