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Reviewed by Caleb Shadis
Vostok is the second book featuring Zachary Wallace, and large parts of it takes place in Antarctica, below the frozen ice cap, in a liquid lake, Vostok. Steve Alten appears to like the idea of ancient Miocene predators and other animals hiding in the dark places of the ocean. This isn’t the only series he has dealing with supposedly long extinct species and there is a little cross-over with the others.
I will say that Alten does a pretty poor job when it comes to real science and double checking facts used in the story. I really started taking notice when he converted -25C to -87F in a conversation and no one seemed to notice the huge error (-25C is -13F…). The next big error was saying that high energy electromagnetic waves (ultraviolet – x-ray, etc.) have longer wavelengths than red and infrared. This is completely backwards and would only take a quick Google search to validate. Then there is a marine biologist grad student discussing evolution with our Dr. Zachary (another marine biologist) and claiming that it is much more likely that whales evolved from large fish like sharks instead of ‘bears like Darwin postulated’ based solely on the similarity of size. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I almost stopped reading the book.
Dr. Zachary Wallace is considered to be the ideal candidate to travel all the way to the other end of the earth to Antarctica, where he will be sent under two miles of ice to explore a lake that has been covered for eons. It is a trip of a lifetime. It is also incredibly dangerous and has a smaller chance of success than everyone realizes.
The first issue is the variety of life they find left over from the Miocene, much of it dangerous to their small three person submarine. When they are coming through the ice they miss their mark and land a long way from anywhere useful to get themselves back. After they arrive at an ‘island’ – one of their objectives on the mission – things start getting strange. Wallace has an encounter that changes his life forever.
This book had more holes in it than a Dan Brown plot, however, despite all the issues I had with the the biology and physics, Alten can still tell a good attention grabbing yarn. Even with its faults, I give this book 3.5 stars. Vostok will definitely be more enjoyable for someone who doesn’t care about the science. A little fact checking can go a long way!
Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.
Review copy was provided by Rebel Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.