Antarctica is one of the coldest most desolate places on Earth. There isn’t much life there except penguins, seals and scientists looking into the origin of the planet. Under a thick sheet of ice lies Vostok, a 1000 mile deep lake heated by thermal vents and untouched for millions of years. When fossils are found suggesting that there was life in the lake, a team of scientists are recruited to explore its depths.
One of the recruits is Marine biologist Zachary Wallace. He is reluctant to leave his family for the six month mission but the idea of being the first to explore the lake and other circumstances lead him to Antarctica. Once there Zachary and his crew use a submersible armed with lasers to cut through the ice and look for life forms that were believed to be extinct.
Vostok by Steve Alten is a hard book to review, the scope of this book is huge. When I started reading it I thought it was going to be a Michael Crichton type thriller about finding sea monsters. You do get that in this story but it goes even further by getting into the origin of the universe, ufo conspiracies, parallel dimensions and scientific explanations to back it all up. There is so much information in this book that you will probably get a headache when you read it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, but some of it went way over my head.
I thought the first half of Vostok was excellent, in fact early on I was thinking it was one of the best books I’ve ever read. The scenes with the submersible going through the lake were everything I thought they would be. Steve Alten paints a vivid picture of life in a prehistoric world and all the creatures involved in it. He also manages to build a fair amount of suspense as the crew tries to escape from danger. I also loved the scientific explanations behind what we see in the book.
The science behind the book is fascinating because even though some of it may seem far-fetched, Steve gives very detailed explanations how this could be true. This book covers UFOs, God’s existence and parallel dimensions. Everything is explained well, but the problem is that there is too much going on. I was into the exploration of the lake, I liked all the characters and then the half way point comes in the story and it goes in a completely different direction.
Despite my problems with it I would still recommend Vostok. I loved the explanation of the origin of the universe and all the action in the story. I also love the character of Zachary Wallace. In particular I enjoyed the relationship between him and his wife Brandy. I liked how its shown that some of the choices that Zachary made had put a strain on their marriage, yet when they are faced with the prospect of being separated, you see that they still love each other despite their differences. When Zachary is in danger later in the book I loved how he regrets that he will be leaving his wife and son alone. I felt that the author was showing a very realistic husband/wife relationship and it added a lot to the book. The positives far out weigh the negatives in this book and I think Science Fiction fans will enjoy Vostok.