Tuesday, January 5, 2010

**TRIPLE THREAT** "ICECORE" By Matt Whyman (Review, Interview, and Contest!)




Carl Hobbes is no criminal mastermind.

He's a seventeen-year-old British computer hacker who penetrated the security systems at Fort Knox for a laugh.  But the American government was less than amused.  Since his prank, gold bars have been landing in the hands of terrorists across the globe.

Now, Carl has found himself in a military prison deep in the Arctic and far off the grid.  He's been caged alongside the world's most notorious terrorists, with no one to trust and no end in sight.

Carl Hobbes may not be a criminal mastermind, but if he wants to escape this subzero prison with his life, he'll have to start thinking like one.


Well, I had mentioned this one in a previous "Scoop" and warned you guys that this was coming! Let's see, some words that come to mind when I think of Icecore... Action (non-stop), Adventure, Excitement (serious excitement!), Great Characters, Page TEARER (surpasses page turner!), Fast Paced (not a dull moment), BBBRRRRR!

Right off the bat, I'll tell you that hand's down, one of the best books I have read in a long time. From cover to cover, I was hooked.  What I LOVED was that Matt changes up the scenery a few times and brings your mind to different places.  From an unbelievable plane ride to mentally being in Fort Knox during the whole hack to some where waayyyy cold in the middle of east bumble-fudge <--- curbed for our "PG" rating :o)

I'm going to give you an abridged version of a "Dave" review because I really want you guys to read this one.  The good news is that in the CONTEST we will be holding as part of our "triple threat", we have 3 COPIES of Icecore to give away thanks to Matt and our friends at Simon and Schuster. (Thanks Guys!!)

So, in the beginning of the book Carl, 17, our main character (whiz kid/hacker/Commando-like)is telling us how he goes from a typical day at school to ending up getting minorly interrogated about hacking into Fort Knox, the largest gold supply in the world.

The next thing I knew, Carl was on a "ghost flight", meaning it wasn't registered as an actual flight with anyone.  Since I wont tell you anything else about the plane, I'll leave it at this... let's just say his company on the plane wasn't the Mickey Mouse Club.

Fast forward...We are somewhere in the Arctic Circle on a remote corner of a strip of land surrounded by freezing ice/ocean and several miles long forests.  Basically, nobody would be able to find this place even if you did know that it existed, which not too many people do.  Carl finds himself locked up and there for "questioning" and then he is supposed to be on the next plane home, back to his normal life.  Well, there wouldn't be much of a story if we let Carl just hop on home after hacking into Fort Knox, would it??  See, the thing is that even though Carl only hacks into there, horrible things have taken place due to his fiasco involving some stolen gold bars all the way to terrorism financing.  Carl has this tiny problem that due to a certain little southern belle, his interrogators are not 100% sure Carl is telling the truth about the extent of his involvement.  Problems like this can sort of delay your return trip home.

Now, the next part I don't want to tell you much about because if you think we have hit "action" yet, we haven't even scratched the surface.  Here's the short of it... Carl is not liking the treatment he is getting by his guards too much.  This seems to be a problem until one of his fellow "inmates" as I will refer to them as, decides to go renegade on the compound and basically take over.  Problem here is that it's not just a simple "take over" but more like a clean sweep/leave NOTHING standing sort of deal.  Now, Carl is faced with an entirely different problem...how the heck to make it out alive.  The guards, the interrogation...that's all child's play from this point on.  

The rest of the book which I refuse to tell you any more is just action, action, action mixed with some creative thinking and a slight touch of what seems like it could possibly form into a romance for Carl (remember the southern belle??  But who the heck is she??)  She has closer ties to Carl than he could have ever imagined, that's for sure. 

What I found was great writing by Matt was how he took the mind set of a "computer hacker" and utilized that thinking to apply to real life situations (actually way beyond real life), not just messing around in some chat room with a bunch of other hacker geeks thinking about stealing your face book login info and changing your profile pic.

There are a ton of deaths, near deaths, and artillery contained in this book.  From an agent who feels the sympathy of Carl to a double agent who is thought to be one of the world's most dangerous, wanted men, this book has it all.  I would tell you to run out and buy the book, but you should probably wait until the contest is over to see if you are lucky enough to win one.  Remember, we have 3 copies to give away!  You will learn a bit more about the book in the interview following this review that I was fortunate enough to get with Matt.  Overall- fantastic, riveting, and goes up on my shelf of top of the top.  One I will read again for sure and suggest for a long time to come.  The good news for me is that I was lucky enough (again, thanks to my friend's at Simon and Schuster) to get an ARC of "GOLDSTRIKE", which is the second book of the series.  I can tell you this, and this should give you a clue about how much I liked "Icecore" if you haven't already figured it out... I WILL NOT sleep tonight until "Goldstrike" is done.  That's a promise!



TLG: Matt, "Icecore" was a book that I honestly grabbed off the shelf at first because the cover was super cool. Once I read the back cover, I knew I had to buy it! There is a very intense story line here that you make very simple to understand. Where in the world did the idea of "Icecore" come from?

MW: I was always interested in the concept of hacking, and the fact that it appealed to young minds. Finding a way inside places that are supposedly off limits can be a kick- in the real world as much as in cyberspace- even if the only goal is to prove that it can be done. I knew I wanted to write a book about a teen hacker- my previous books are always about young people living against all odds. Then events in real life opened my eyes to the wider implications. The ongoing case of British hacker Gary McKinnon is well known in both the UK and the USA. Here was someone idly poking about in American military computer systems, unaware that if alarm bells ring, as they have, the consequences can appear to far outweigh the crime.

I had McKinnon in mind while writing "Inside the Cage" (the UK version of Icecore). What's happening to him could happen to many, many other amateur hackers, regardless of their age or intention, and from that moment on they're on their own. In the case of the book's teen narrator, Carl Hobbes, accused of virtually breaking into Fort Knox in a bid to fund terror operations, he finds himself in a kind of Guantanamo of the Arctic. Here, subzero conditions outside are as deadly as the breakout that occurs among the mercenary inmates. Somehow, Carl has to use his skills in accessing restricted areas in order to stay alive. The question is this: is he safer on the inside or the outside?

TLG: The story is about a 17 year old boy, Carl Hobbes who is technically brilliant and hacks into the systems at Fort Knox. With very detailed accounts in the book, how did you do your research on "hacking", or is it a question better left untouched? :o)

MW: I researched the subject extensively. Early on, I realized that only a fraction of a hacker's skill concern coding software nobody else could understand. Largely, you have to be an excellent con artist. It's said that the weakest point in any computer system is always human - in that they can always be talked into revealing their password, which is where Carl's skills lie.

I aimed to keep the technical side to a minimum, but to be sure of my facts I turned to a systems administrator for advice. The trouble is he thought I really was trying to get info in order to hack his system, and so fed me misinformation. Fortunately, we cleared that up before the novel went to print!

TLG: How long did it take you to write "Icecore" from start to finish and what were some of the road blocks you encountered?

MW: I only start writing when I'm all fired up, and from there on out it's pretty quick. Four months intensive, perhaps? I wanted this book, and the sequel, to be proper page-turners and that can only be done with energy behind the keyboard. The key is to have the plot all worked out beforehand.

TLG: I've noticed on your blog site (www.mattwhyman.blogspot.com)that you have what seems to be a cool, but unique photography hobby. Tell us a little about that.

MW: Ha! Yes, I do. I only picked up a camera a couple of years ago, but having then taught myself the dark arts of Photoshop it's become a liberation. My work tends to feature people peering down from impossibly high chasms- often above the clouds. I love the sense of vertigo it creates. The challenge is to make it look totally convincing. In the last few years I've been commissioned to create canvases, and now a selection of my work is represented by Getty Images, which is really thrilling. You can see my stuff here:

TLG: When you are not writing or creating art out of pictures, what do you enjoy doing most?

MW: I own a white german shepherd. She's kind of like a white wolf, and needs a LOT of exercise. It's a good way of getting me away from my desk and into the woods- which is where I do my thinking about plot and character etc.

TLG: Every author has their own little "story" about how they came to be published. Share with us a bit of your experience with getting published for the first time.

MW: Well, my first books were actually teen advice titles. This is because for the last fifteen years I've been the "Agony Uncle" for a popular teen girl's magazine in the UK called "Bliss". It was the same publisher who took my first novel, and things snowballed from there.

TLG: When sitting down to start a new book, do you have the whole thing from start to finish mapped out in your head already, or do you kind of create as you go along? Basically, before you write a story, do you know the beginning, middle, and end before you write or do you let your imagination run wild?

MW: With a plot driven novel like ICECORE, it's vital that you know how to get from A-Z. Sometimes, the characters go off in unexpected directions, but I effectively have a map- much like a video game, which I put together before I write a single word. In ICECORE, you'll find the map at the front of the book.

TLG: Can you share with us some of your favorite books and/or authors? Possibly anyone who might inspire you. What do you love to read?

MW: Recently, I've been blown away by Cormac McCarthy's "The Road", but to be honest it's the first work of fiction I've read in ages. I'm one of those authors who steers clear of novels just to stay true to my own voice. I tend to read non-fictopn about subjects that inform the books I'm writing.

TLG: Tell us something about yourself that practically nobody knows. It can be anything in the world, just something that is not known to many.

MW: OK. Well, I'm heavily tattooed. A picture of my back piece even features in a book about the world's finest tattooists, but you wouldn't know it's me. Nor would your mother know I have any ink if we were introduced. It's all under the sleeves and the collar. This is between us right? ;o)

TLG: As you all know, we always end every interview with our signature question... What would you, Matt Whyman, author of "ICECORE" do for a Klondike Bar??

MW: As a Brit, one who has never heard of such a thing, I imagine I would look it up on Wikipedia first of all. If it turned out to be chocolate, I'd threaten to eat your liver and spleen unless you handed it over!


Matt, I want to thank you for a few things.  First of all thank you for the interview, as it was a real pleasure to work with you.  Secondly, thank you so much for giving me the pleasure of reading "ICECORE" as I truly loved it!  I would hope that many of our readers not only take my advice and pick up a copy, but have also been intrigued by the review and your interview.  Keep in mind that in a separate post we will conclude our "triple threat" with 3 copies of "ICECORE" to give away to you guys!  Also, if you love ICECORE as much as I did, Matt has the sequel, "GOLDSTRIKE" due out at the end of February.  And, last but not least, I think as a favor to Matt, we should direct him to www.klondikebar.com/ and show him what he has been missing over there in the UK for so long! So, Matt...a taste of the GOOD OL' USA!



  1. This book looks awesome - thanks for a great review Dave! And thanks Matt for a great interview. I love what you said about writing withh energy behind the keyboard. I for one can tell when an author is all fired up!
    I'm adding Icecore to my wishlist and can't wait to read it!

  2. Cold and thrilling to the bone. Sounds like a great read.

  3. Hey, Dave - what an honour to be featured on your site. There's passion about books here you don't see so often.

    Keep up the good work, and don't forget that Klondike bar :o)

  4. This sounds like an absolutely must read book. The review was very "chilling". Looking forward to this one.

  5. This book looks awesome. I want to win it badly. Thank you for the great review! Even if I don't win- I'm totally getting this book.

  6. Great review.

    You have been nominated.

  7. really great review. I haven't seen many of your reviews, but I like that you are very thorough, yet I still feel like there is a lot to the book that I do not know. Definitely one I will read. Thanks for the review.

    Charlie Daniel

  8. This is both a great review and interview. I was intrigued by Icecore before, but I really want to read it now. It sounds quite interesting and your reviews always have me intrigued. The interview was great as well. Matt's photos are gorgeous and all kinds of awesome.

    Thanks Dave and Matt!