Harrison Sullivan (Interviewer): Good evening everyone and welcome to this week’s episode of ‘Reading with Writers,’ a podcast where we interview the authors of the best new novels hitting the shelves near you! Joining us in the studio today is Australian author Matthew Reilly, who will be talking to us about his latest thriller “Ice Station.”
Matthew Reilly (Author): Indeed, thanks for having me.
Sullivan: So, to begin with would you mind telling our listeners what “Ice Station” is about?
Reilly: Gladly. Ice Station follows the story of a US Marine Reconnaissance Unit led by Lieutenant Shane “Scarecrow” Schofield as they investigate a remote research station in Antarctica. The scientists at Wilkes Ice Station claim to have found an alien spaceship buried underneath the ice and sent down a team of divers that never returned. However, it transpires other military associations are also interested in the discovery, resulting in fierce gun battles, gruesome animal encounters and high-speed hovercraft chases. It’s a pretty intense read.
Sullivan: It sure is, and a pretty good one as well. It left me wondering, what was your inspiration for the novel, its characters and the setting?
Reilly: That’s a great question Harrison, and the answer is quite simple. I have always enjoyed watching blockbuster films with extensive action scenes, such as James Bond, Mission Impossible and Mad Max, yet have never found a book with action on quite the same scale. With this in mind I formed an idea: What if a spaceship was discovered under the ice in Antarctica? The answer – special forces would be sent to secure it. Antarctica was a good place to set the novel as there are no boundaries and no rules, meaning I could include all of the gruesome gun battles and hovercraft chases I wanted. My local library also had an incredible Antarctic section, and so all of the details I mention throughout the book are factual. As for the characters, they are completely made up. I wanted Scarecrow to be a modern-day superhero, with his reflective sunglasses and full marine body armour, yet still be relatable to readers. His character weakness is blaming himself for everything, and this shows readers that he isn’t an invincible warrior, but a caring commander.
Sullivan: Wonderful! It’s great to understand the thinking behind these books. Next question. Who is the novel directed at, and how have you tried to engage your readers?
Reilly: Ice Station was aimed primarily at young-adult male readers. The genre is thriller with elements of sci-fi, and it has everything a thrilling book needs – constant battle, coarse language, limited characterisation, exotic setting, futuristic technology and a hint of romance. Entertainment is always my priority when writing, although I also believe technical accuracy is very important. Despite the incredible pace at which the novel progresses, I wanted to teach readers interesting facts about Antarctica, geopolitics and the world’s elite special forces. The military jargon I use throughout the novel adds authenticity to the descriptions and makes some of the more farfetched moments a bit more convincing. My graphic descriptions of the deaths of characters throughout the novel were intentionally written to disturb the reader, as I believe this is important in keeping them engaged. An example – when the marine unit discovers the crashed hovercraft at the beginning of the novel: “Two of the hovercraft’s occupants had been catapulted by the impact right through the forward windshield. Both lay against the forward wall of the crevasse, their necks bent backward at obscene angles, their bodies resting in pools of their own frozen blood. Rebound Simmons stared at the grisly scene.” Moments like this are unpleasant yet intriguing for the reader, plus, they’re enjoyable to write.
Sullivan: Fair enough. Are there any important themes or messages that you included in the novel?
Reilly: Yes. I’ve always thought to myself, what do I want in a book? What do I hope to gain? And the answer is a lesson, I want to learn something from what I’ve just spent the last week reading. Otherwise, what’s the point? Ice Station is an explanation of the selfishness that exists within everyone, and what results when another person’s selfish inclinations interfere with our own. The novel ultimately reveals that even with the harshest conditions to contend with, as well as foreign enemies attacking you relentlessly, you still can’t trust your closest most trusted comrades to protect you. It emphasises that every step of our lives is a contest, and that we can’t really achieve anything without overcoming those who oppose us. Of course, in Ice Station the situation is extreme. The majority of people wouldn’t find themselves fighting in Antarctica for the sheer right to stay alive, however it does show that when a person desires something, and someone else wants to stop them getting it just as badly, conflict is imminent.
Sullivan: Novels in the thriller genre don’t generally focus on character development. Did you find this in Ice Station and do you see this as an issue?
Reilly: I do admit I do not focus heavily on individual character development, instead revealing personalities through the characters’ interactions with one another. However in an adrenalin-packed novel such as this there is no time to provide a full biography for everyone. Still, the emotional depth of the main characters like Scarecrow and Fox more than make up for the lack of personality in the remainder of the cast.
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