Uneven mix of travelogue and polar history, as Fisher (Environmental Sciences/Univ. of Miami; Hostage One, 1989, etc.) sails on the first surface vessel to reach the North Pole. A breathless tale of grit and guts? Not quite: Fisher shells out $30,000 for a three-week luxury cruise to the top of the world aboard the nuclear-powered Soviet icebreaker Sovetskiy Soyuz. The trip is uneventful, and Fisher's log consists mostly of arch observations on the landscape (ice, snow, slush); the ship (boiling hot: since unlimited nuclear-generated heat is available, Soviet mentality says, ""Crank it up!""); and fellow passengers (after observing that ""the menu is impressive, the food is awful,"" Fisher remarks that one woman ""looks like the menu and talks like the food""). When the jaded travelers arrive at the Pole, the scene reminds Fisher of ""New Year's Eve, with the crows...ready to shout and drink a toast at the exact instant when we hit."" But the Pole breaks through his weariness: ""L...could almost feel myself slipping down the curve of the earth."" Happily, Fisher expands this forgettable travelogue with extensive retellings of earlier northern ventures, beginning with the doomed Willoughby expedition of 1553 and continuing up to Wally Herbert's dog-sled assault of the 1980's. Here, Fisher offers solid, exciting polar history, hitting all the right highlights: Franklin disappearing into the northern mists; Nansen's three-year drift across the ice; Andree's mad balloon flight. Like most other polar tale-tellers, Fisher pays special attention to the Cook-Peary controversy. He concurs that both men faked or fudged the evidence. The laurels for first overland discovery of the Pole should rest, Fisher believes, squarely on the head of Wally Herbert. A flimsy frame for some bright polar portraits.