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By Thomas Greanias
Pocket Books, 2005 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
The ice-covered continent of Antarctica is governed by the United Nations Antarctica Commission (UNICOM), which strictly forbids any nation to bring military personnel or equipment to the region except for "research purposes." Some countries, including the U.S.A., might have a looser interpretation of research than the UN intended. A team of NASA scientists and military personnel has established a base deep in the interior of East Antarctica, monitoring a series of seismic events and drilling into the original landmass. An anomaly, possibly man-made and dating back at least 10,000 years, is buried under two miles of ice, and the U.S. wants very much to know what it is.
When several members of the original team are swallowed up during one of the seismic events, the leader of the illicit expedition recruits some new specialists. Conrad Yeats, once a rising star in the field of astro-archaeology, lost his academic credentials because of his "brilliant but unorthodox theories about the origins of human civilization," and had been reduced to hosting a cheesy television program, Ancient Riddles of the Universe. His methods have resulted in making him persona non grata in several countries. When Peruvian authorities spotted him in his latest escapade, taping a show from the top of a mountain overlooking the Nazca Lines, he was just moments away from a Lima jail cell when help came from above. A Black Hawk helicopter swooped down to his rescue, making him an offer he couldn't refuse. NASA, and his adoptive father, General Yeats, were requesting the pleasure of his company and expertise in Antarctica, where he would find what he'd been looking for all his life. Considering the choices, Conrad climbed aboard.
Another scientist was also on her way to the site, not in the employ of the U.S. government, but as a representative of the Pope. Dr. Serena Serghetti, aka Sister Serghetti, aka Mother Earth, was summoned from a humanitarian mission in the rice fields of Indonesia to the hallowed halls of the Vatican by the Pontiff himself. She had resigned from the Carmelite order when she realized she needed to save the environment. Her tactics earned her many enemies among the petroleum, timber, and biomedical industries, but those people whose lives she'd made better considered her a saint. The Vatican considered her a brilliant scientist and linguist, and her skills were needed in Antarctica. The Pope was aware of the Americans' discovery, and felt that it might threaten the Church's survival, overturning written history and the origins of mankind. He trusted Serena to represent the interests of the Church; it didn't hurt that she and Dr. Yeats had a history, and that she knew how his mind worked.
The search for Atlantis is an interesting fable, and setting its location in Antarctica makes for a hair-raising, really, really chilling adventure story. There are plenty of bad guys (most, but not all, Russian), and sometimes it's hard to tell who the good guys are. Doctors Yeats and Serghetti are great characters, flawed, often self-serving, but ultimately they do the right thing.
If you're a fan of Stargate Atlantis, this is the book for you. There's no connection between the television show and this novel except for the dangerous environment and the hypothesis that the lost city of Atlantis is located under the ice of Antarctica, but if you like one you'll probably like the other. You might want to put on a sweater before you start reading: the author did a fine job of depicting the killer climate.
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