MacGyver On Ice a book review by Lothithil
Containing some very minor spoilers, this is my highly opinionated dissertation concerning this hard to find novelette, offered for the possible edification of adventure-minded affectionner of MacGyver.
The heart leaps a little when you first hold the book in your hand; it seems so small to convey part of a story of one for whom I have seen so much potential, so many untold stories. Of course, I waited for nearly a month to receive it after I won the auction and was allowed to purchase it, and before that, I was cursing and stamping my feet because I had been outbid on the first auction and was afraid that I’d never get another chance to obtain it.
I wanted the book to be thicker, heavier, muuu
ch longer. I am a reader epics, I zealously dive into large series of books; adventures and mysteries by Cussler and King, science fiction from Azimov through Zalazney, slanted histories of America and Europe through the eyes and pens of Mitchner, Jakes, and Cornwell. These chaps don’t stop writing
a book until they see five or six hundred pages done. And don’t even
get me started on Rowlings! That woman doesn’t slow down until there is a world-wide paper shortage!
(*chuckles* Just kidding Ms. Rowlings… please
don’t sue me! *begs*)
Anyway, for a short book, ‘MacGyver On Ice’ delivers a colourful, action-filled adventure. There I also a wonderful amount of feelings and thoughts—our man of action is easily seen doing his daring-dos, but it is much easier convey the cognitive process on paper that it is on screen. I think that is why I miss the ‘voice-overs’ from the early seasons of ‘MacGyver’, as they demonstrated that Mac is as good with his mind as he is with his hands. In the pages of this book, we can look inside his head and through his eyes, feeling his pains and compassions. Mark Daniel offers us a possible background story that reveals MacGyver’s motivation, and while some are radically different that the conceptions that this fan has devised, I do not find them altogether implausible.
The story seems to take place somewhere in the misty vagaries between the first and second seasons, before the Phoenix Foundation became part of Peter Thornton and MacGyver’s lives. I can accept that a person like MacGyver would be in no small part traumatized by the things he had seen—and been required to do—in the Viet Nam war. The arguments around his motivations for resigning as a field agent are sound and reasonable, and I question why the creators of the show did not tap into this possibility themselves. I can only guess that they wanted to keep the story lines up-beat and mutable, so that they could have the character of MacGyver growing and changing, rather than to lock him into a preconceived or stereotyped persona. Understandable, but sad, in my opinion. I think solidifying such facts could have given his character even more depth and movement.
Things are taking place early in the development of MacGyver’s character, so I find it easy not to take umbrage to attitudes or actions that don’t fit with the MacGyver who has evolved within my mind. At the beginning of the story he comes across as both anti-social and friendly. This contradiction works beautifully, creating highs and lows in the terrain of this reader’s mind; an obstacle course, if you will, where plots can run and hide and jump out to surprise you. MacGyver in the book rapidly proves himself to BE
MacGyver, leaving this reader able to trust the author and enjoy the story, accepting the weird threads along with the true, and working them all into the embroidery of the fabric of the story.
I had a strong initial reaction to the presentation of Peter Thornton’s character, who seemed rather more brash, crass, and hard-edged than I picture him—but after I took into account that Pete had to go over some rough times, like sharp rocks carried down a river and getting the ragged edges smoothed away as it rolled along… I found that I could accept this vivid, fiery character as our beloved Pete; passionate, patriotic, tenacious, dedicated… and utterly devoted to MacGyver. The author portrays him as a little too far ‘gone to seed’ for my tastes, as I feel that Pete was very much a vital part of field activities for the DXS during this period of time.
The new faces in the story, antagonists, bit-players, love interests, competitors—all are fleshed out and colourful and capable of defining themselves through their actions without all the bulky back-history that tends to slow down the story (although I am one who rather enjoys bulky back-histories and stuff like that!). Also, I have always enjoyed an antagonist who is motivated by more than just greed or wickedness. Such a character can be empathized with, even if I reject his ideals and actions. That makes a good Bad Guy, someone for me to hold up in comparison to the hero, and I think it greatly enhances the story.
Locations are beautifully described, in terms that I, as an amateur writer, can only one day hope to emulate. Daniel delivers descriptions of the Arctic world, with all of its dangerous beauty and grandeur, which this girl from Kansas can only imagine… he helps me to imagine it all very vividly and clearly, so much so that I can nearly smell the snow and feel the encroachment of hypothermia as I huddle in the snow trenches with Mac and Silva.
I’ve been told more than once that I “have way too much imagination”. A book is more to me than a collection of pages printed with ink. It is a launching pad, a platform from which I can crouch and spring forward, diving into a pool of imagination or flying through the atmosphere of probabilities… and I realize that writing a good story is quite easy if your audience is intelligent and expressive. A skilled author will set us up and then let our minds fill in the blanks, dress up the sets, detail the costumes, and breathe life and warmth into the characters. If I have learned anything from reading this book and reflecting on my experiences here and in the other forums I inhabit within the æther, it is that as a writer, I should be more trusting of my readers and try not to overtell my stories.
My thanks to Mark Daniel, wherever and whoever he is now, for writing this novel and publishing it, and also my thanks to the Ebay godlings for letting me get my hot little hands on a copy of it!