Vulcan's Forge is a novel which could potentially leave you breathless if you read it at the same pace as the action takes place. All action novels require several elements: A protagonist with a wide range of action skills, a love interest (best if there is some steamy past history and they haven't seen each other for a while), an antagonist with a really evil plan and lastly a cast of government types to provide what is needed when it is needed.
Du Brul has created in the person of geologist/superman Philip Mercer an action hero who is as skilled at dodging death in impossible situations as he is at solving puzzles. This first book in Du Brul's Mercer books and it shows itself as a freshman effort by requiring the reader to perform their own mental gymnastics to follow the spaghetti strands of multiple story lines involving the attempted murder of a friend's daughter, the sinking of an exploration vessel, a billionaire bent on Hawaiian independence, the KGB, a Korean cartel and of course the U.S. government. Add to the mix a new metal which promises an unlimited power supply with zero emissions and you have an intriguing premise. Mercer's ability to escape the impossible is only trumped by Du Brul's willingness to ignore the laws of physics : What would an adventure novel be without a little defiance of physics?
It's hard to complain about action in an action book so the ability of Mercer to survive situations against incredible odds (like jumping off of a train bridge into the middle of a river and swimming to shore) are just part of the action package. There is a lot to like about Philip Mercer and his approach to life which is long on action an short on reflection he is cut from the same cloth as Bond, Helm or McGee. With any luck Mercer will go in the direction of Helm and evolve as his career progresses. Vulcan's Forge is good enough the first time out to give him another go in the future.