Vulcan's Forge

Vulcan's Forge

by Jack Du Brul, Jack Du Brul

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It begins deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, where a nuclear bomb strikes at the fiery hot heart of the earth. Churning, spewing boiling lava, a volcano rises with unnatural speed from the ocean floor — the source of a new mineral that promises clean, limitless nuclear power.

It continues in hot spots around the globe: Hawaii, where a secessionist movement is about to turn violent and the American army may be asked to fire on U.S. citizens; Washington, D.C., where the subway system becomes the site of a running gun battle; the Far East, where disrupted diplomatic negotiations jeopardize world peace; a rogue Russian submarine, circling the infant volcano.

Caught in the middle is Philip Mercer, a geologist and a one-time commando with shady contacts in all the right (or is it wrong?) places. When Mercer learns that the daughter of an old friend is being kept under armed guard in a local hospital, he vows to rescue her, not knowing that this is the first step in unraveling the fantastic secrets of Vulcan's Forge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780451412102
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/06/2005
Series: Onyx Novel Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 476,667
Product dimensions: 4.23(w) x 6.73(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jack Du Brul is a graduate of the Westminster School and George Washington University. Trying to add as much adventure to his life as he does to his novels, Du Brul has climbed Masada at noon, swam in the Arctic Ocean off Point Barrow, explored war-torn Eritrea, camped in Greenland, and was gnawed on by piranhas in the Amazon River. He collects zeppelin memorabilia and when not writing or traveling (25 countries and counting), he can be found in a favorite chair with a book and a brandy. Jack Du Brul lives in Burlington, Vermont.

Read an Excerpt

The moon was a millimetric sliver hanging in the night sky like an ironic smile. A gentle easterly breeze smeared the acrid feather of smoke that coiled from the single funnel of the ore carrier Grandam Phoenix. The Pacific swells rolled the ponderous ship as easily as a lazy hammock on a summer afternoon as she cruised two hundred miles north of the Hawaiian Islands. The tranquility of the night was about to be shattered.

The Grandam Phoenix was on her maiden voyage, having slipped down the ways in Kobe, Japan, just two months earlier. Her final fitting and sea trials had been rushed so that she could begin paying off the massive debts incurred by the company during her construction. Built with the latest technological advances in safety and speed, she was an example of the new breed of specialized cargo ship. The Second World War had taught that the efficiency of a specialized vessel far outweighed the cost in its design and construction. The owners maintained that their newest ship would prove that these principles worked as well for civilian craft as they did for the military. The 442-foot-long ore carrier was to become the flagship of the line as the shipping business greedily expanded into the booming Pacific markets.

Soon after taking command of the Grandam Phoenix, Captain Ralph Linc learned that the owners had a very different fate in store for their newest ship from the one proposed to her underwriters.

Not long after the development of maritime insurance, unscrupulous owners and crews intentionally began scuttling their vessels in order to collect often substantial claims. The underwriters had no recourse but to pay out unless someone, usually a crew member feeling twinges of guilt, came forward with the truth. For sinking the ore carrier, the crew of the Grandam Phoenix would receive bonuses large enough to ensure their silence. If the swindle worked, and there seemed no reason it wouldn't, the owners were looking at a settlement not only for the twenty-million-dollar value of the vessel, but also that of her cargo, listed as bauxite ore from Malaysia, but in reality worthless yellow gravel.

Captain Linc held true to his genre, a tough man with a whiskey and cigarette tortured voice and far-gazing eyes. Standing squarely as his ship rolled with the seas, he ground out his Lucky Strike. And lit another.

Linc had served in the U.S. Merchant Marine all through World War II. With losses rivaled only by the Marine Corps, the Merchant Marine seemed to be the service for maniacs or suicides. Yet Linc had managed not only to survive but flourish. By 1943 he had his own command, running troops and material to the hellfires of the Pacific theater. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he never once lost a vessel to the enemy.

At war's end, he, like many others, found that there were too many men and too few ships. During the late forties and early fifties, Linc become just another Yankee prowling the Far East, taking nearly any command offered to him. He ran questionable cargoes for shadowy companies and learned to keep his mouth shut.

When first approached by the Phoenix's owners, Linc had thought he was being offered the opportunity of a lifetime. No longer would he have to scrounge for a ship, prostituting his integrity to remain at sea. They were giving him a chance once again to be the proud captain, the master of their flagship. It wasn't until after the contracts had been signed that the company told Linc about the predestined fate of his vessel. It took two days and a sizable bonus for his bitterness to give way to acceptance.

Now stationed on the bridge, a cup of cooling coffee in a weathered hand, Linc stared at the dark sea and cursed. He hated the corporate people who could arbitrarily decide to scuttle such a great ship. They didn't understand the bond between captain and vessel. For the sake of profit, they were about to destroy a beautiful living thing. The idea sickened Linc to the bone. He hated himself for accepting, for allowing himself to be part of such a loathsome act.

"Position," Ralph Linc barked.

Before the position could be given, a crewman stooped over the radar repeater and said in a remote voice, "Contact, twelve miles dead ahead."

Linc glanced at the chronometer on the bulkhead to his left. The contact would be the rendezvous vessel that would pick up the crew after the Phoenix was gone. They were right on time and in position. "Good work, men."

He had been given very specific and somewhat strange orders concerning the location, course, and time that he was to sink his ship. He assumed the North Pacific had been chosen because of her unpredictable weather patterns. The weather here could turn deadly without a moment's notice, building waves that could swamp a battleship and whipping up winds that literally tore the surface from the ocean. When the time came for the insurance inquiry, the rendezvous vessel would corroborate any story they manufactured.

"You know the drill, gentlemen," Linc growled, lighting a cigarette from the glowing tip of his last. "Engines All Stop, helm bring us to ninety-seven-point-five degrees magnetic."

This precise but inexplicable positioning of the vessel complied exactly with Linc's final orders from the head office. They had given no reason for this action and Linc knew enough not to pry. The engine speed was reduced, the rhythmic throb diminished until it was almost imperceptible. The ship's wheel blurred as the young seaman cranked it around.


"We're coming up on ninety-seven degrees, sir, as ordered."


"Eleven miles."

Linc picked up the radio hand mike and dialed in the ship-board channel. "Now hear this: we've reached position; all crew not on duty report to the lifeboats. Engineering, emergency shutdown of the boilers and open the sea cocks on my mark. Prepare to abandon ship."

He looked around the bridge slowly, his eyes burning every detail of her into his brain. "I'm sorry, sweetheart," he mumbled.

"Ten miles," the sonar man called.

"Open the seacocks, abandon ship." Linc replaced the mike and pressed a button on the radio. A klaxon began to wail.

The cry of a dying woman, Linc thought.

Linc waited on the bridge while the crew filed out to the boat deck. He had to spend a little time alone with the ship before he left her. He grasped the rung of the oaken wheel. The wood was so new that he felt slivers pricking at his skin. Never would this wheel achieve the smooth patina of use; instead it would become so much rot on the bottom of the ocean.

"Goddamn it," Linc said aloud, then strode from the bridge.

Gone were the days of men scampering down cargo netting into boats bobbing on the surface of the sea. Ocean Freight and Cargo had spared no expense in outfitting their flagship with every modern safety device. One lifeboat was already full of men and up on the davits. The winchman waited for a curt nod from Linc before lowering the boat to the sea below.

The warm night breeze blew smoke from Linc's cigarette into his eyes as he climbed into the second lifeboat. The other men in the boat with him were subdued, ashen. They didn't talk or look each other in the eye as Linc nodded to the winchman.

The winchman threw a toggle switch and the pulleys that lowered the lifeboat began to whine. The boat hit the calm surface with a white-frothed splash. Instantly two men stood up to detach the cables that secured them to the sinking ore carrier.

Captain Linc took charge of the lifeboat, grasping the tiller in his right hand while applying power to the idling engine. The boat motored away from the Grandam Phoenix, the crew craning their necks to watch their sinking ship. The klaxon echoed emptily across the waves.

It took fifteen minutes for the ship's list to become noticeable, but after that, she went quickly. The stern lifted from the water; her two ferro-bronze propellers gleaming in the low light. The watching men heard her boilers let go of their mounts and slam through the engine room bulkheads. The screeching hiss that followed was the sound of thousands of tons of gravel pouring across the vessel's gunwales into the ocean.

Linc refused to watch his ship die. He kept his eyes trained ahead, steering toward the dim lights of the distant rendezvous ship. Yet every time he heard a new sound from the Grandam Phoenix's death throes, he cringed.

The rendezvous ship was not large, a ninety-foot general cargo freighter, the type referred to as a "stick ship" by seamen because her decks were studded with a forest of cranes and derricks. Her boxy superstructure stood amidships, her straight funnel atop it. As the two lifeboats approached, Linc could make out about a dozen men on her port rail. He guided his boat toward them.

"Captain Linc, I presume?" a voice called down cheerily.

"I'm Linc."

The reply was the rapid fire of ten Soviet-made PPSH sub-machine guns. The snail drums of the weapons could hold fifty rounds and the gunmen emptied them all into the lifeboats. The cacophony of shouts and screams, shots and ricochets, was deafening. Blood pooled on the floorboards of the boats, its sweet smell mingling with the cloud of cordite smoke.

Linc looked up at the ship, bloodied and dazed, astounded that he was still alive. Anger, fear, and pain boiled in his mind but the emotions and sensations were being driven back by darkness.

The gunmen lowered their weapons one by one as the bolts slammed into empty chambers. The lifeboat was a charnel scene of blood and mutilation, the water pouring in through the holed floor sloshed in a pink froth. In moments, both lifeboats capsized, spilling corpses into the ocean. Packs of sharks circled eagerly.

The lone unarmed man on deck had watched the massacre with flat appraising eyes. Though not yet thirty, he carried an air of authority held by only a few even twice his age. When the lifeboats capsized, he nodded to the commander of the gunmen and went into the freighter's superstructure.

Minutes later, he ducked into the ship's hold. The lights of the computing and sonar equipment packed into the cramped hold gave his skin an alien pallor.

"Depth of the target ship?" he snapped at one of the technicians bent over a sonar scope.

The target ship was of course the Grandam Phoenix as she plunged to the distant bottom.

The sonarman didn't look up from his equipment. "Six thousand feet, sinking at a thousand feet every seven minutes."

The man glanced at his watch and jotted down some numbers on a pad. After a brief pause he looked at his watch again. "Two minutes from my mark."

The hold was noisy. The sound of the ship's diesel generators filtered in through the steel walls and the air conditioners necessary to cool the computers sounded like aircraft propellers. Yet the seven men in the room could have sworn that during those two minutes there was not a sound in the world. They were too focused on their jobs to notice any distractions.

"Mark," the young man said with a casualness that was not forced.

Another crewman flipped several switches. Nothing happened.

The civilian counted down under his breath. ""

The shock wave started nearly seven thousand feet below the surface and had to travel a further ten miles to reach the ship, yet it struck only five seconds after detonation. Billions of gallons of water had been vaporized in a fireball with temperatures reaching 100,000 degrees. The main wave rushed to the surface at 150 miles per hour and threw up a dome of water half a mile across. The dome hung in the air for a full ten seconds, gravity fighting inertia, then collapsed, thunderously filling the six-thousand-foot deep hole in the Pacific Ocean.

Caught in a man-made Charybdis, the freighter tossed and pitched as if she were in a hurricane, her hull nearly out of the water one moment and almost swamped the next. The young man, the architect of such destruction, feared for a moment that he had cut the margin too thin, placed his ship too close to the epicenter. Before his concern could crack the glacial facade of his face, the sea began to calm. The huge waves leveled out and the gale wind created when the ocean fell back on itself, dissipated.

It took the young man a few minutes to reach the deck of the freighter, for she still rolled dangerously. On the horizon, a blanket of steam clung to the sea and glowed luminously in the weak moonlight.

"I have laid the foundation of Vulcan's Forge."

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William Heffernan

Vulcan's Forge is an exciting, well-honed thriller that will have Clive Cussler fans taking note of the new kid on the block.

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Vulcan's Forge 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
smanke More than 1 year ago
Vulcan's Forge was the first book in the Phillip Mercer series by Jack Du Brul. It was first published in 1998. I have read the Oregon Files series of novels by Jack Du Brul and Clive Cussler and had been eager to find out what Du Brul's initial solo effort was like. Not only am I eager to read the second book in the series, but I'm actually very excited that there are 5 more books in this series after that. Vulcan's Forge introduces the lead character, Phillip Mercer, a creative and high energy Geologist with a knack for getting into trouble. The story actually starts in 1954 when a then state of the art transport ship is scuttled on its maiden voyage. The plan behind the destruction of the ship turns out to be a Soviet plot that will be decades in the making. Jump forward to present day and Phillip Mercer receives a telegram from an old friend that once saved his life. The telegram explains that the recent sinking of a Navy vessel 200 miles off the coast of Hawaii was no accident and that the only survivor of that tragedy is in danger. The survivor of that ship happens to be none other than his old friends daughter. But the mystery thickens for Mercer given that his old friend actually died several years ago. On top of that, political problems in Hawaii increase the tension as the United States approaches a possible civil war. As North Korea and ex-KGB operatives manipulate the politics of the United States, a new chemical compound is discover to be the result of early underwater detonation of an atomic bomb. This compound could lead to breakthroughs in modern superconductor technology and is exactly the type of technological breakthrough that any nation would kill to acquire. All of this boils down to a compelling and riveting story that makes the book very difficult to put down. The protagonist, Phillip Mercer, proves to be just the kind of character that readers relate to and want to read more about. Vulcan's Forge is the first book in what I anticipate to be a very exciting series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading this book I was absolutely floored that it was Du Brul's FIRST novel. It read more like a seasoned veteran of the action/adventure scene. Now let me also say the ONLY reason why I gave this book 4 instead of 5 stars is that I have never given 5 stars to an authors 1st book...maybe I should change that here, but either way I want to leave room for improvement...and after finishing Du Brul's 2nd & 3rd books I have noticed that he IS in fact getting BETTER. 'Vulcan's Forge' has a plot that rivals anything written by the only peer I think Du Brul has at this point, Clive Cussler. An irresistable substance that is manufactured after an atomic explosion sets it off underwater just outside the limit of America's control of Hawaii's territorial waters. What is the purpose of this rather rash waste of an expensive weapon? Du Brul lets us wonder for a while as he sets the stage for our dashing hero to make his entrance, namely Phillip Mercer. Sort of a hard-drinking Dirk Pitt if you won't mind the comparison. Phillip becomes hopelessly involved and by the time Du Brul finally gives us the morsel of information that helps us to understand the plot a little more we are now hopelessly wrapped in the plot and we are being carried along for the ride whether we like it or not. There are a pitiful number of authors out there that I am aware of who crafts an action-thriller so well that you feel you are literally compelled to finish, even at the peril of waking up the next day having garnered only an hour of sleep--or LESS. I officially add Jack Du Brul to that list of authors. Simply put, a first rate story written with first rate style. I look forward to many more adventures with Phillip Mercer. A note to Mr. Du Brul: As long as you keep pumping out novels of this can COUNT on getting the royalties off of THIS reader--gladly. By the way...Mercer #4...DON'T make us wait too long, PLEASE.
gwnsad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great book. Not quite as good, as say, "Charon's Crossing" but still a great fast-paced, no-hold-barred read.
Mendoza on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first in Dubrul's Philip Mercer series. He can be likedned to Clive Cussler - and he has indeed teemed up with Cussler to help further his works - but with a little harder edge and maybe a little bit more believable slant.Vulcan's Forge is a non-stop bullit train ride with conspiracy on top of conspiracy. It tells the story tells of a 40-year plot contrived by the Russians, who want to own a newly risen underwater volcano 200 miles off Hawaii. Physicist Pytor Borodin and an American physicist who's studying the oceanic Bikini A-bomb test have independently discovered the same fact: that enormous underwater thermal heat, when mixed with lava, can produce the hardest fuel known to man vsllrf bikinium, which, once put to use, gives off more energy than is needed to burn it. Back in 1954, Borodin had also discovered that the thinnest part of the tectonic plate in the Pacific is just 200 miles past Hawaii. So the Reds secretly sink a ship carrying an A-bomb. The plan is to detonate it on the seafloor, creating a volcano whose lava can then be processed very cheaply for bikinium. But during the 40- year wait for this secret volcano to break to the surface, at which point it can be claimed as Soviet territory, the USSR empire collapses and a KGB officer decides to sell the whole plan for Vulcan's Forge to North Korea for $100 million. Enter Philip Mercer. A rich Japanese racist plots the secession of Hawaii, and Mercer, empowered by the US President, finds himself in cliffhangers nearly more outrageous than Clive Cussler or Ian Fleming could think up. For a first installment, this book is finely tuned with some strong, fresh writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like high pace adventure stories and a likeable hero with improbable survival skills, you'll enjoy this story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
FirstSgtBill More than 1 year ago
Good read. As always, Du Brul brings in a little science (that is always accurate) as well as some great villins and a plot that keeps you guessing. Always great for bedtime or when nothing else is pressing because it is always hard to put his books down. Strongly recommend.
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Brian Kohler More than 1 year ago
intelligent thriller, however some loose ends are tied up too neatly and quickly. Look forward to more from the author.
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RetiredUSAF More than 1 year ago
I have read thousands of books and this one actually introduced something new to me. Mercer gets into more hot water (pun intended) and you'll have to read the book to appreciate just how he gets out. To those who have read the earlier books in the series, a familiar protagonist reappears to further frustrate our hero. Remember the enemy who got away?
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't think I need to summarize the plot as the other reviewers seem to have that covered. What I can say is that although I'm not a big fan of political thrillers, "Vulcan's Forge" is a pretty decent one. Du Brul has done some impressive research regarding nuclear testing, oceanography, metallurgy, and he knows how to read a map. His protagonist, Phillip Mercer, is endearing but ruthless when he needs to be, though his hand-to-hand combat skills (utilized fully in the novel's climax) were a little TOO good for a geologist. One thing that was incredibly annoying about the book was Du Brul's insistence of having every character repeat the entire "secret plot" to another character who didn't know it. We got the lowdown on the bad guys' scheme at least three times and with no new information being revealed. It was if Du Brul was trying to remind us of how clever his plot was. And truth be told, it was rather convoluted. Nonetheless, "Vulcan's Forge" was a tough book to put down. With a little finesse and subtlety, Du Brul could evolve into a first-rate thriller writer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just finished reading Jack Du Brul's 'Vulcans Forge', and I loved it. His writing style is similar to Clive Cussler's, a riveting central plot line surrounded by many interconnecting sub plots, all cleverly melding toward the end. The main character 'Mercer' was great, loved his occupation, engineer just like me. His fondness for a beer or three always brought a smile to my face when reading. Jack's depiction of the villian Ohnishi was memorable, particularly his disgusting eating disorder. You could not like the man if you tried. The double crosses and triple crosses amongst the many villians was great. You kept wondering just who would betray who next. Now I can't wait to start Jack's next book 'Charons Landing'. From the look of things, Mercer is up against one of his old foes from 'Vulcans Forge'. Will he triumph .... will he get the girl. Read it and see, I don't think you'll dissappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the main character, the engineer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The hero is sometimes just too good, and does it too easy.