Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Night Without End (published in 1959) - by Alistair Maclean - a team isolated in a remote location

Alistair MacLean is a Scottish writer who specialized in writing thrillers and crime stories. He was the third son of a Scottish minister and joined the Royal Navy during World War Two. He was a senior torpedo operator at the height of his career. He was in the thick of the war theater during the world war and saw action on many fronts especially the arctic north. After retiring he started penning his novels based on the war he saw and many of them became best sellers. Maclean never looked back as a writer until his death in 1987.
Night Without End was published in 1959 and is considered to be one of the best books by Alistair MacLean. A BOAC plane crash lands 400 miles north of the Arctic in Greenland veritably on the polar ice cap. The plane has crashed near a scientific research station which is headed by Dr. Mason. Jackstraw is Mason's trusted aide along with other members of the research station. They live in sub zero temperature and their only contact with the outside world is through the radio which has broken down.
The research team tries to rescue the passengers of the ill fated jet. But only few survivors are found including the stewardess. The pilots are found to have been killed with bullet wounds and the plane catches fire. Dr. Mason feels that the crash was intentional and the pilots were murdered in cold blood. He suspects the stewardess and tries to get help.

Since the research station does not have adequate stock pile of food to feed the survivors, Mason decides to leave in search of help. He asks the radio operator to repair the radio. Soon unexpected things happen. Deliberate attempts to sabotage help is being done. A field expedition contacts them, and informs that a massive military mission is being undertaken to rescue the passengers. But still Mason leaves to find help along with Jackstraw leaving the injured passengers with the other scientists.
Captain Hillcrest, head of the field expedition try to contact them but his journey is sabotaged with his fuel mixed with sugar. But the ingenious research team find a way out to filter out the sugar and resume the journey. Hillcrest informs Mason that the plane was on a top secret mission and was carrying a missile guidance system which certain agencies were trying to get their hands on. Mason remembers a certain gadget looking like a tape recorder picked up by the passengers. They rush to reclaim it but alas are prevented by the murderers who take the entire group as hostage.
The captors abandon the research team to die in the Arctic blizzard and take only the stewardess and another passenger who is a boxer as hostage. But the research team fight the mind numbing cold and the storm to find an abandoned sleigh with rockets. They fire one to help Hillcrest to locate them. They rush to intercept the murderers and find them trying to sail away from the Arctic. Hillcrest alerts the navy which cut off the intruders flushing them to land. Soon in an high adrenaline finish the murderer's are brought down with hand to hand combat which the boxer plays a key role.
Yet again the environment and man's fight to master the challenging elements come to the fore in this novel. Read this only under a blanket because the cold, fatigue and suspense seeps to your bones giving you the goosebumps.

Night Without End (published in 1958) - by Alistair MacLean - a team isolated in a remote location

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