Ice Station Zebra Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Ice Station Zebra

In this thrilling action story, Dr. Carpenter tracks down a killer, who has sabotaged a research station in the Arctic. Ice station Zebra, a high-tech research lab in the Arctic, sends out a desperate distress signal.  A devastating fire has destroyed its supplies and shelter, leaving the men helpless and dying.  The Dolphin, a U.S. submarine, is sent on a rescue mission, racing against time.
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Dr. Carpenter, a civilian, joins the crew, having extra motive to find the station as his brother is up there.  After days of swift travel, the Dolphin reaches the approximate location of the station.  Successfully finding a crack in the ice pack, the sub surfaces and Dr. Carpenter leads a small expedition to find the station, whose exact coordinates are unknown.

The men struggle along, hampered by the blizzard-like weather and treacherous terrain.  Exhausted and ready to give up, the men smell burned fuel and bump into a hut; they have reached Ice Station Zebra.

The damage is terrible.  The huts are no more than blackened skeletons.  The food and medical supplies, as well as batteries for the transmitter, have been destroyed.  Out of 19 men, more than half of them, including Carpenter's brother, are dead.  As for the survivors, they are close to death due to exhausting, burns, starvation, and exposure.  The fittest, Dr. Jolly and Kinnaird, welcome them heartily. 

After providing aid to the survivors, Carpenter returns to the sub to summon a rescue mission, which is temporarily put on hold as the sub almost sinks.  Carpenter suspects foul play but has no proof.  He then devotes his energy to the rescue party.

Returning to the station, Carpenter is revealed as undercover agent investigating the sketchy circumstances concerning the fire.  He finds that the fire was indeed a cover-up for murder, and searches for clues as to the motive.  After much snooping he discovers stores of food, batteries, and a gun.

The killer is still on the loose, and gory ‘accidents' happen to several members of the crew, including Carpenter, who is lucky to survive.  Then the sub itself is sabotaged again, and only the captain's skill and the crew's tireless efforts save it.

Finally Carpenter solves the puzzle and tells the story to the assembled crew and survivors.  Someone on the station was working with the Soviets.  When one of their satellites, containing valuable pictures of American missile launching sites, crashed in the arctic, this person retrieved the satellite capsule.  However, he was caught and, in an attempt to cover his tracks, burned down the station.  Who is the culprit?  Carpenter boldly accuses…Dr. Jolly.

Carpenter seems to have goofed when Kinnaird, Jolly's accomplice, pulls out a gun and takes control of the sub.  Gloating, the two partners confirm the story, as they are sure they have won.  They celebrate because they have already left the capsule at a meeting place for the Soviets.

Then Dr. Carpenter executes the last part of his plan and swiftly turns the tables.  Kinnaird is sniped by Carpenter's helper; he and Jolly are forced to surrender.  Victorious, Carpenter reveals that he swapped the film canister with a fake one, and the real images are safe from the Soviets.
Best part of story, including ending: Just when you think the antagonist has won, Carpenter tricks him and comes out on top.

Best scene in story: Carpenter hopes that his brother is among the survivors, but it is not to be. He finds his brother's charred body at the station, recognizable only from the distinct wedding ring, and holds a moment of silence. Determined to find the murder, Carpenter resolves to solve the mystery or die trying.

Opinion about the main character: Dr. Carpenter notices details and draws logical but hidden conclusions from them. He uses what little evidence he has in order to piece together a confusing, complicated murder.

The review of this Book prepared by michaela chai a Level 2 American Robin scholar

Chapter Analysis of Ice Station Zebra

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 30%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 40%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 10%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 20% Tone of story    -   suspenseful (sophisticated fear) Time/era of story:    -   1980's-1999 Spying/Terrorism Thriller    -   Yes Cloak & Dagger Plotlets:    -   stopping a saboteur/spy Exploring into the wild    -   Yes Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Who's the terrorist enemy here?    -   commies! Search for technology?    -   spying technology Terrain    -   Ice

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   government investigator Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Race    -   White/American


Ice Caps/Sea?    -   Yes Where?    -   North Pole    -   Ocean

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Alistair MacLean Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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