Copyright 2011 by Gary L. Pullman
I just finished reading Lincoln Child's novel, Terminal Freeze. It's 320 pages long. I read it in five hours. That's 64 pages an hour, or a little more than a page a minute. I'm not bragging, just making a point. By using the same method that I use, you can read novels quickly, too. Why would you want to do so? You can read more of them, gaining a better perspective on either an individual's entire collection of work, a better understanding of the entire genre itself in which he or she works, or a better appreciation of both an individual author's work and the genre to which the work belongs, all with a minimum investment of time. In addition to reading the novel, I also wrote one-sentence summaries of each of its chapters as I went, so that, by the time I'd read the entire novel, I had a summary of the entire story, which enhances my memory of what I've read and provides a handy dandy means of evaluating and critiquing the novel, should I ever wish to do so.
If you'd like to follow the method of my madness (or the madness of my method), here's what I do when I want to speed up the reading process:
- First, read the blurb. A blurb is the text on the inside of a hardback book’s flyleaf (the paper cover in which hardback books are usually wrapped) or on the back cover of a paperback. by reading them, you’re saving yourself from having to read maybe fifty, or even 100, PAGES of the novel itself, and you will know the main character’s name, the setting, the basic storyline, and the names of lesser, supporting characters.
- Realize that a chapter can be summarized in one sentence. Then, read the chapter only until you can summarize it in one sentence.
- After each chapter, write a sentence that summarizes what it presented
- Keep a list of characters’ names, brief phrases that identify them, and the names of the places in which the action takes place.
- Skip most of the description and exposition. Read just the dialogue. By reading just the dialogue, you will be able to keep track of the story well enough to summarize it. Only dip into the descriptive or expository blocks of text when you need to do so to reestablish a sense of continuity and context--maybe twice or so every four or five chapters. You will find that you are skipping entire pages of the text and still know what’s going on.
- After reading and summarizing each chapter and updating your list of characters and settings, stop! You are done with the book.
Here is the result of my application of this process to Terminal Freeze:
Chapter 1: The face of a melting glacier near Alaska’s Mount Fear falls away, revealing the mouth of an ice cave.
Chapter 2: Scientists exploring the cave find a monstrous beast (a gigantic cat) frozen in the ice.
Chapter 3: Although Usuguk, who travels south with his people, warns the scientists to leave the region, declaring that they have trespassed upon holy land, defiling it with their presence, the scientists refuse to leave.
Chapter 4: Kari Ekberg, a Hollywood location scout, arriving at the scientists’ research station to prepare for a docudrama about the discovery of the frozen beast, is given a tour of the facility--except for the northern section, which is off limits to her and everyone else, including the squad of soldiers who maintain and guard the post.
Chapter 5: As they escort Ekberg to the ice cave to see the beast, two scientists, paleoecologist Evan Marshall and evolutionary biologist Wright Faraday, explain their expertise to her.
Chapter 6: In an underground bunker below Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains, Jeremy Logan, allegedly a professor of medieval history, reads a secret memorandum concerning the deaths of a team of scientists who had been encamped at Mount Fear.
Chapter 7: Emilio Conti, the executive producer, begins filming on location, explaining that the host of the docudrama will arrive before the crew ascends Mount Fear to cut the beast from the ice--live, on camera, before millions of viewers.
Chapter 8: The Hollywood team’s legal representative, Wolff, shows the scientists a contract that their leader, Gerard Scully, signed, authorizing them to extract and thaw the beast’s carcass, on live television, despite the scientists’ objections.
Chapter 9: Using a laser and a diamond-tipped drill, the television crew extracts a block of ice in which the beast is entombed from the ice cave’s wall and transports it to a climate-controlled vault to thaw before the eyes of their television audience.
Chapter 10: Conti interviews Marshall, dramatizing the setting and dialogue, but angering the scientist when he asks him about his “dishonorable discharge” from the army, despite his having been awarded the Silver Star, and his refusal to carry a weapon, and Marshall refuses to cooperate further.
Chapter 11: Faraday reports to his colleagues that tests he’s conducted indicate that the beast is not the saber-toothed tiger they’d supposed it to be; it is at least twice the size of such an animal.
Chapter 12: An examination of the carcass--or what can be seen of it inside the block of ice--proves inconclusive as to the animal’s identity.
Chapter 13: The docudrama’s host, Ashleigh Davis, arrives, by helicopter, along with her trailer, which has been trucked in aboard an eighteen-wheeler driven by Carradine, an ice road trucker.
Chapter 14: Logan, identifying himself as a hitchhiker, who was picked up by Carradine on his way to deliver Davis’ trailer, introduces himself as the scientists gather to watch the docudrama host film a sequence of her show outside the climate-controlled vault.
Chapter 15: Marshal awakens to discover that a hole has been cut through the floor of the climate-controlled vault.
Chapter 16: Wolff locks down the compound so he can investigate and recover the carcass stolen from the vault, but the new arrival, Logan, is nowhere to be found.
Chapter 17: Faraday, having taken pictures of the hole in the vault’s floor, determined that the hole was made from above, not from below, as Wolff had supposed, which indicates that whoever sawed the hole through the floor knew the combination to the vault’s lock.
Chapter 18: Conti believes that the carcass was stolen through an act of sabotage to be disposed of and vows to make a documentary of the crime, asking Marshall to star in the film.
Chapter 19: Logan tells Marshall about the recently declassified memorandum concerning the deaths of the scientists at Fear Base.
Chapter 20: Josh Peters relieves McCoy Tyner, searching the compound for the carcass of the beast, and is attacked from behind and knocked unconscious.
Chapter 21: Faraday and the team’s graduate assistant, Ang Chen, tell Marshall of test results they’ve obtained on ice from the cave in which the creature was encased: it seems to contain ice--and a microscopic view of the photograph Faraday took of the hole in the floor suggests that the hole was made from teeth, not a saw, as if it had been chewed through.
Chapter 22: Logan reconnoiters E Level of the research facility, where he encounters the military leader, Sergeant Gonzalez, who tells him that the facility’s off-limits section had “extra berths” in it “that no military ever used” and is rumored to have involved the mauling by a polar bear of scientists who were involved in top secret work.
Chapter 23: After Marshall and his team’s computer scientist, Penny Barbour, put Conti, Wolff, and Ekberg on notice that the filmmakers will be sued if they libel or slander the scientists in their docudrama about the climate-controlled vault’s having been sabotaged, they inform the Hollywood executives that one of their men, Josh Peters, has been “torn apart” beyond the compound’s “security fence.”
Chapter 24: At Wolff’s request, Marshall examines the body, concluding that a polar bear could have killed Peters, but Wolff still insists that the creature’s carcass was stolen in an act of sabotage and suggests that Peters was killed to frighten the rest of them from continuing the Hollywood team’s search for the missing creature.
Chapter 25: Intent upon making a revised docudrama of the creature‘s theft and Peter‘s supposed murder as part of the sabotage of their original film, Conti sends one film crew to photograph the fearful reaction of the rest of the crew to the news of Peter’s horrific death and a second crew to film Peters’ corpse before it is put into cold storage.
Chapter 26: Logan discovers a notebook--perhaps a journal--that one of the scientists on the earlier, catastrophic, aborted mission kept while at Fear Base.
Chapter 27: A he prepares to leave the room in which Peters’ corpse is temporarily stored., having photographed the body, cameraman Ken Toussaint encounters “the face of nightmare.”
Chapter 28: Faraday reports to Marshall his suspicion that the ice that encased the creature was unusual and melted below the freezing mark, allowing the animal trapped inside, which may have been alive rather than dead, to escape after its ice prison had melted.
Chapter 29: Trying to pitch a screenplay to Davis, Carradine escorts her to her trailer, where they hear a loud knocking, which turns out to b Toussaint, hanging from one of the trailer’s window awning support arms, who, although he first appears dead, screams, “It plays with you! And then when it’s finished playing--it kills.”
Chapter 30: Toussaint, who has survived the attack upon him, describes his attacker as huge and equipped with many teeth; Peters’ corpse is missing; Wolff refuses to allow Carradine to drive the crew to safety in Davis’ trailer, which he offers to tow behind his eighteen-wheeler.
Chapter 31: Logan tells Marshall that the dead scientist’s journal hints at horrific events at Fear Base, and Marshall decides to take a snowmobile to visit the Tunits to see whether they can shed any light on the incidents, past and present, that have occurred at the research facility.
Chapter 32: When Allan Fortnum returns from shooting images of the Hollywood crew’s horrified reactions to Peters’ death, Conti gives the cinematographer his next assignment: stand by to film the monster as it tears its next victim apart--but Fortnum refuses to be party to this outrageous task.
Chapter 33: Both Davis and PFC Donovan Fluke, who escorts to her new accommodations, which are closer to those of the military troop attached to Fear Base to afford her better protection, are attacked by the monster.
Chapter 34: Visiting the Tunits’ settlement, Marshall finds it deserted except for Usuguk, who has remained behind to speak to the scientist, certain that Marshall would come.
Chapter 35: Sergeant Gonzalez orders the camp evacuated; everyone will ride in Davis’ trailer, which Carradine will tow with his eighteen-wheeler; meanwhile, Gonzalez plans to hunt for the beast; when Marshall returns, his colleagues plan to meet with him; only Conti and Ekberg refuse to leave, staying to film yet another revised docudrama.
Chapter 36: After Marshall tells Usuguk how he had accidentally killed his friend during the war in Somalia and had refused to cover up his mistake, thereby earning a dishonorable discharge, Usuguk agrees to accompany him on his hunt for the creature, but only as an unarmed advisor--and the shaman won’t share what he knows about the slaughter of the earlier scientific expedition party.
Chapter 37: Sergeant Gonzalez and his two men, Marcelin and Phillips, remain at Fear Base to hunt the beast after everyone else but Creel, Faraday, Scully, Marshall, Logan, Conti, Ekberg, and Wolff leaves in Davis trailer, which is towed by Carradine’s big rig.
Chapter 38: Conti and Ekberg plan to follow the soldiers, filming their hunt of the creature.
Chapter 39: Marshall returns to the nearly deserted research facility with Usuguk and learns of the monster’s killing of Davis and Fluke; Usuguk tells the others that he was the sole survivor among the earlier research party, “the one who got away.”
Chapter 40: The military troop, commanded by Sergeant Gonzalez and accompanied by Creel, the roustabouts’ foreman, follow the beast’s bloody tracks through the base‘s power station, and it attacks the group, killing Creel, after which Gonzalez retreats.
Chapter 41: Usuguk, a former soldier who had been stationed at Fear Base, tells the others how another, smaller spirit-beast killed the scientists of the earlier expedition and declares that the larger one awakened by the present expedition is an invincible and immortal guardian of the mountain in which Fear Base is installed--it cannot be killed, but it will kill them all.
Chapter 42: After crossing a frozen lake, the tractor-trailer is caught in a gust of wind that slams it into a rock and breaks one of the fuel tanks; the other tank is only one third full, and there is not enough fuel to take them the rest of the way to their destination, Arctic Village.
Chapter 43: Inside the base’s power station, the soldiers try to electrocute the creature, but to no avail.
Chapter 44: Following the soldiers, Conti, Wolff, and Ekberg find the bloody trail and Conti films Ekberg’s reaction to seeing the head that the monster had ripped from Creel’s body.
Chapter 45: Faraday finds that the monster’s white blood cell-rich blood makes it impervious to bullets but is hypersensitive to--and may be killed by--sound, so maybe they can convert the secret wing of the base into an echo chamber; meanwhile, Sergeant Gonzalez’s attempt to raise Conti and Ekberg on the radio is unsuccessful.
Chapter 46: Conti, having forbidden Ekberg to respond to Gonzalez’s radio call, orders Wolff and Ekberg to investigate a stairwell with him, and they feel pressure inside their skulls as the monster approaches them through the darkness.
Chapter 47: As Usuguk tells the party his people’s legends concerning the monster, Gonzalez, Sully, Marshall, Faraday, Phillips, and the shaman find an already-built echo chamber in the secret section of the facility.
Chapter 48: The creature kills Conti, but Ekberg escapes.
Chapter 49: Ekberg radios Marshall, advising him of Conti’s death and of her own risk, and, while Scully seeks batteries to operate the echo chamber’s sound equipment, Marshall rendezvous with Ekberg to protect her from the monster and lead her back to a site outside the echo chamber, where the monster can be ambushed.
Chapter 50: As the monster pursues them, Marshall and Ekberg retreat toward the ambush site, only to learn that no batteries are available and that the scientists have had to connect the sound equipment to a power source inside the echo chamber itself, which is farther than Marshall had anticipated.
Chapter 51: The sound equipment fails to stop the creature (as does a barrage of bullets), which attacks Scully, who is operating the sonar weapon, and tears him limb from limb.
Chapter 52: Marshall retreats with the sonar weapon into the echo chamber, where the sound is magnified, and, using a different set of “harmonics,” kills the monster with the sound waves, which cause its head to explode.
Chapter 53: Against all odds, Carradine’s big rig manages to haul the trailer to Arctic Village.
Epilogue: Logan suggests that the first beast was the second creature’s pet and that the latter had been searching for the former when it became encased in the wall of the ice cave.