A North Korean submarine secretly enters Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific to steal reentry vehicles from the floor of the lagoon after a recent missle launch from Vandenberg AFB. They not only want the vehicles but kidnap radar and missile engineers and steal many top secret documents as well in order to enhance their ballistic missile technology. Engineer Ken Garrett races against time to stop the North Koreans from taking our nation's secrets and his wife, a kidnapped ballistic missile engineer, back to North Korea.
This story is based in part on an actual attempt to steal part
of a reentry vehicle off the floor of Kwajalein Atoll by the crew
of a Russian mini-submarine.
Another real incident plays a part in the novel. In 1976 at the DMZ
between North and South Korea the normally tense atmosphere between
Americans and South Koreans on one side and the North Koreans on
the other exploded into violence. The North Koreans attacked a
group of Americans and South Koreans on a relatively routine
job of chopping down a tree and killed two U.S. Army officers,
Major Arthur G. Bonifas and LT Mark T. Barrett. The author took
the oportunity to highlight this disastrous incident lest we ever
forget the unltimate sacrifice of these two fine soldiers.
The first chapter of this techno-thriller
offers a riveting profile of George Tucker, a spy.
In a U.S. government top-secret vault, located in
the suburbs of a large city on the East Coast,
he sits at a desk reviewing confidential files.
Only one other man is in the room with him. Each man
is supposed to keep watch on the other to make it impossible
to steal state secrets.
Tucker thrives in the art of the impossible. As he reads, the hand supporting his head is full of surprises. Within its palm, a fiber-optic camera scans the complete document on the table. "The fiber-optic cable runs up his sleeve, down the trunk of his body, ending in his pocket, where a miniature video camera translates the captured light into electrical signals," Campbell writes. The signals are fed into a tiny video recorder in his pocket.
He is a man with nerves of steel. After an hour of taping, to change the tape, he has to invent a story to leave the room, "necessitating the activation of a host of alarms and locks." After several such trips, agents kidnap him when he leaves the build- ing and force him into a car.
There's a problem when they try to open his briefcase and confiscate the goods. Two phosphorous grenades hidden inside denotate simultaneously.
Campbell's novel is replete with high tech happenings and hostile forces. For all his trouble, Tucker is not even the main character, but he does set the tension level for the action. Sub Zero's super-drama is left to U.S. engineers and a technical writer/agent, who find themselves suddenly battling the opposition in the tropical paradise of the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific's Marshall Islands.
There's no question that the natural environment in this string of islands is beautiful, but homo sapiens quickly gets ugly. A group of North Korean agents attempts to steal U.S. ballistic missiles and defense secrets. A heavily armed assault team from their Kilo class submarine heads for the Kwajalein Missile Range to do battle with a handful of servicemen, scientists and civilians. The author casts the defenders as America's final hope and its last line of defense against this unimagined enemy. Campbell, an electrical engineer by profession, has been hailed by critics as being "at his best" in creating such an environment of capabilities and vulnerabilities.
The ending of Sub Zero is no give-away. But vicariously is the only way to go in such a world. Genre aficionados will discover this back-of-the-neck hair-raiser is best explored while tucked comfortably in an arm chair or hammock.