2057. Humanity has raised exploiting the solar system to an art form. Bella Lind and the crew of her nuclear-powered ship, the Rockhopper, push ice. They mine comets. And they're good at it.
The Rockhopper is nearing the end of its current mission cycle, and everyone is desperate for some much-needed R & R, when startling news arrives from Saturn: Janus, one of Saturn's ice moons, has inexplicably left its natural orbit and is now heading out of the solar system at high speed. As layers of camouflage fall away, it becomes clear that Janus was never a moon in the first place. It's some kind of machine - and it is now headed toward a fuzzily glimpsed artifact 260 light-years away. The Rockhopper is the only ship anywhere near Janus, and Bella Lind is ordered to shadow it for the few vital days before it falls forever out of reach. In accepting this mission, she sets her ship and her crew on a collision course with destiny - for Janus has more surprises in store, and not all of them are welcome.
©2008 Alastair Reynolds (P)2010 Tantor
"[Reynolds is] a genius for big-concept SF and fans of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama and Larry Niven's Ringworld will love this novel." (Publishers Weekly
I was led to Pushing Ice on the recommended reading list in another book I own. I had a few credits to spare and decided to try it out. I was happy to see that John Lee was narrating, as I've enjoyed his other work (Count of Monte Cristo particularly). But this was my first exposure to Alastair Reynolds.
Right out of the gate I was engaged. The depiction of life aboard a comet mining ship was really first rate with very little in the way of "space magic" thrown in. The characters were interesting and the events of the first portion of the book were so gripping I found myself pulled into the slip stream (wink).
The development of the plot from beginning to end is quite broad in scope, and Mr. Reynolds doesn't slow down to spoon feed every portion of the the plot which I enjoyed. There are a couple of lulls in the story when new events are being set up that dragged by comparison to other parts, but they were by no means boring.
In the end, the quality of Pushing Ice is a result of the whole story rather than any one character or plot arc. It's a great experience that I'd recommend to any fan of science fiction.
Aliens, castaways, relativistic quandries, mortality, betrayal, vengeance, love, sacrifice, cosmic insignificance and perserverance...all delivered to your ears by the smooth-as-butter voice of John Lee.
First, the good part. Reynolds has a rare gift for weaving hard science into his plot. The matter of fact limitations of physics and effects of near light speed travel make this novel stand out from a host of lazy sci-fi. The author is undeniably adroit at imagining and describing alien and future worlds and this makes for a compelling and at times irresistible narrative.
However...the science and alternate worlds are by far the best part of the book. The characters inhabiting these worlds are entirely flat and opaque, and I do not mean unlikable. Based on previous reviews I expected the characters might be harsh or unsympathetic, but instead I have almost no idea what their motivations might be. They have little internal narrative, and character development is strictly one-dimensional, A to B. They are alternately self-righteous and petty, occasionally stopping in the middle of the most intense danger to be catty to each other. Whenever they begin talking the story comes to a screeching halt. The dialogue is stilted and odd, and sounds nothing like actual human conversation.
With all of this being said, if you can overlook the paper cut-out characters and get past the parts where they talk, there is a fascinating, magnetic story here. I do hope Reynolds continues this universe in the future, with better characters.
Interesting enough that I don't begrudge the time, but annoying enough that I'm not completely absorbed and often find my mind wandering to mundane things like work.
The least - The interactions of the people are very petty and one dimensional with poorly written dialogue. They just never grow on you - not even like fungus.
The most - The story of the Janus artifact. It's pretty slow and drawn out, but interesting with lots of breadcrumbs along the way. On the other hand the book is basically just a re-imaging of the Arthur C Clarke 'Rama' novels so Reynolds is treading a well worn path.
Not if I can avoid it. He often sounds very stilted and delivers dramatic pauses and grave voices at times that feel completely out of place. Also his characterisations are generally more like caricatures and often distract from, rather than enhance, the story.
I generally hear good things about Reynolds but I'm not getting it from this book (my first Reynolds book). I'll probably give him the benefit of the doubt and try another... probably.
Long winded with very little resolution. No strong protagonists or antagonists. The phrase "we push ice, that's what we do" is supposed to resonate strongly with the reader. Heavy emphasis on tablet-like computers called "flexies" - people are always flicking out their flexies or charging their flexies or taking photos with their flexies. Unlikable, interchangeable characters.
Reynolds manages to bring forth another novel of the same quality as the Revelation Space series that serves to place him at the forefront (perhaps along with Peter Hamilton) as one of the pre-eminent contemporary sci-fi writer today. The pacing of the plot appears slow at first and gains speed as the storyline progresses, but in reality, Reynolds is shadowing the relativistic time dilation that the characters are undergoing. Another of Reynolds' talents is to unfold his tales along a Richter scale of increasing complexity and scope.
The overall theme of story surrounds female friendship and its complicated interplay between the personal and professional, along with a higher duty to society. As is typical of Reynolds, the science is inviting and doesn't overwhelm the storytelling. His rendition of aliens is also refreshing in its diversity.
Hopefully, this is merely the opening volley in what promises to be an evolving series. The tantalizing glimpses at the very end of the menagerie suggests possiblities for endless future installments both within and outside. We can only hope that Reynolds doesn't disappoint.
A 50-something who loves sci-fi, cozy mysteries, thrillers, an occasional romance, and any genre if it is a good story. And especially if it makes me laugh! No vampires or zombies though - these are NOT sci-fi!
A long story. It dragged in places, but when it was exciting, it was very exciting. I didn't like the portrayal of the two female characters. Most women who are that smart won't be so antagonistic over such a long period of time. Especially when they see the harm it does to the society in which they live. Just my opinion.
Without doubt, Pushing Ice is the best book I have listened to by Reynolds. The book is exciting, interesting, and imaginative. Even though the book is long [3 parts] it will hold your attention throughout. If you only listen to one book by this author, this is the one you want to choose. It is his best work..
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
Pushing Ice is really a mind-expanding view of the universe on a scale of time that goes beyond my ability to imagine. There are some interesting aliens and some vague secondary characters, but the two primary characters are both women and the plot boils down to a battle of wits and wills between these two. Both characters have dimension, but neither quite hit the mark for me on the believability scale. Bella Lind, captain of the Rockhopper, is more magnanimous and long-suffering than any one I've known. Svetlana Barseghian is more egocentric and openly vindictive than most people I know, but I might accept that if there was some explanation for it. It is almost impossible to feel much empathy for Svetlana because there is no backstory on her to help the listener understand why she is so completely inflexible. And because of that, it is difficult to comprehend the relationship between Svetlana and her kind-hearted husband (he wants to have children with that mean girl??), how Bella Lind and Svetlana ever became friends, or why any group of reasonable people would accept Svetlana's leadership. In the end, the Lindblad artifact created such a fun, clever twist in the plot, I enjoyed the story even if the characters weren't quite up to par.
Not as good as House of Suns, but a fun space adventure with some good hard science. I am now listening to my fourth Alistair Reynolds book and loving his writing, but I have learned that getting a good plot summary in advance (the publishers' summaries are usually useless) is a great idea to keep you from getting lost at the beginning. I kind of think a woman narrator might have been a better choice on this book since the two central characters and an important secondary character are women, but John Lee was, as always, quite good.
5 stars is i love and i will read agani and again. 1 is i hate and i never want to hear about it ever again. YES = :))) - NO= :'(
This book was amazing.... i really loved it and loved all what happened.
But there is one issue with this book.. is how they jump between years... i reading this book and in a point it suddenly jumped forward in time without saying "x-time later"
other than that the book was a blast...
Just the kind of SF I love.
Totally plausible characters, believable storyline, and genuine, edge of the seat action.
No rule breaking either. No warp engines or FTL communication. It's all done the slow way. Sub-luminal.
I love this man's work.
(Apart from House of Suns)
"Great story, annoying main characters.."
Overall the listen was very enjoyable, I have listened to a lot by this narrator and find him very easy to listen to. The premise of the story was excellent and really what drew me in to listening, that side of the listen was great and I would love see more stories set in this universe or even a sequel to this book. My major gripe with the story was the soap opera like bickering between the leaders of the crew. It didnt seem to me neccessary and really detracted from what was an excellent plot. The fact the neither of them came across as making many decisions that were actually sensible and were so transparently bad left me lacking any real belief that either of them would be in charge of things. I kind of ending up wishing that either one of these characters would be killed off at some point so what I saw as the main plot of story could carry on. I will try some more Alastair Reynolds, this my being first, I have listened to and enjoyed a lot of Peter F Hamilton. I think I could safely say they are comparable. If Peter F Hamilton can be said to be a bit too optimistic about how people behave and things tend to be a bit "nicer". I suppose I would say my first impression of Alistair Reynolds is he is a bit less optimistic about how people behave and things turn out. Probably a more realistic view of people, just not sure I want my Sci Fi escapes to be somewhere that I find myself not liking the main characters. Hope the next one has less of that..
"SO good !"
I once read a review in which an Icelandic girl said that Sigur ros were so good 'she wanted to vomit' ! I wouldn't go that far but Alastair has out-done himself yet again, startling scope and imagination, a vivid pleasure to listen to. Can't wait for "Blue Remembered Earth"
"As interesting as the characters think it is"
This is solid hard sci-fi, the story of a human crew pushed to do something extraordinary, and what happens to them under the pressure of it all. The narration takes a bit of getting used to. The. Narrator seems. To insert pauses. In random. Spots. But in the end I quite enjoyed the delivery.
Technically Reynolds paints an interesting and convincing picture of a near future space-faring society. He seems to delight in the intricate details of how a space crew might operate, and the way in which scientific principles that are quite abstract here on Earth become so important in the context of space travel (red shift for example).
It's a story that is ultimately about the relationships between the crew members, which bodes well, but unfortunately the characters are never entirely convincing and the plot skims the edges of melodrama in places.
Perhaps most frustratingly (especially for people drawn in by the similarity to novels like Rama) the characters never share the curiosity and wonder that we feel as readers when they encounter the amazing sights and sounds that the plot gradually reveals. So prepare to spend hours and hours wondering what on Earth Janus actually is, while they bicker, poke around in the engines, play with fish, fiddle with spacetime, and generally couldn't seem to care less.
So in the end although Pushing Ice is an interesting tale with a decent enough pay off, and will still appeal to fans of the genre, it doesn't quite live up to its first promise.
"A gripping and enjoyable listen"
I thoroughly enjoyed this audio book which gripped me throughout. The book's strengths were the womderful imagination displayed in creating an intricate, convincing, and constantly evolving alien world into which our human heros are tossed. The book's weakness was the somewhat unconvincing description of the human society established in this alien world, and the strange moral choices that our heros sometimes make. I have listened to better readers than John Lee, but he was clear throughout.
"A Great idea that lost its way"
The prologue almost made me give up on this from the outset, with a futuristic and oh so dull collection of hippies with daft names talking about something banal (it makes more sense when you get to the end of the audiobook). Thankfully I pushed on past that and the first half of the book was really good, with a clever well thought out plot that kept you interested. Unfortunately, about half way through I felt it completely lost its way. There was a lot about feuding factions, human relationships, and bizarre happenings, ending with a fizzle rather than a bang. Overall I'm glad I stuck it out and got to the end, and in fairness, I can see why others rave about it, but I shan't be listening to it again, or buying any more of Reynolds' books for that matter. Each to their own.
Nice story and well narrated. This is the first Alastair Reynolds book I have read or listened to and I enjoyed it. Not as good as Foundation or other classics but much better than rubbish like Seeds of Earth.
"Excellent. Could be my favorite book of all time!"
I'm a big fan of Alastair Reynolds; his Revelation Space trilogy is fantastic.
For a stand alone book, Pushing Ice is possibly my favourite book of all time (and I'm including both audio and paper). I've listened to it twice already and I'm sure I'll listen to it again in a few years time.
This is proper "hard science fiction". None of this warping or teleporting nonsense. The technologies described are all things you might, with a slight stretch of imagination, expect to see in a not-too-distant future.
The book continues to make me think. It prompted me to Google for more information on travel at relativistic speeds just so I could get a better handle on the concepts described in the book. Don't let that deter you though if you've no interest in thinking about the physics - the book will entertain by just being a great story. It is a classic tale of adventure and survival. People pushed to the limit and beyond by being placed in a unique situation.
This is my second listen through and I think I'm picking up ideas that I missed on the first pass. It continues to entertain as much as the first pass.
Get this book and enjoy it.
"Excellent narrator - really adaptable voice."
The underlying storyline is great, however the notion of internal strife in such a small group of people on such scales and with such unbelievable ferocity ruins it to an extent.
The narrator is another story in himself - thankfully - what excellent voice characterisations and intonations - liked very much.
There is a little over attention to detail once in a while - but that is to be expected with an unabridged audio version - not really a critisicm - more an observation for myself - perhaps I should choose abridged versions?
Anyway - was entertaining on the way to work over the last month so I'd say it was a credit reasonably well spent.
"EXCELLENT HIGHLY RECOMMENDED"
WONDERFULLY BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS IN A BOOK THAT IS FAST MOVING AND EXCITING WITH CONSTANT TWISTS AND TURNS HIS INVENTION AND IMAGINATION ARE AMAZING AT HIS BEST WHEN WRITING THIS TYPE OF STAR SPANNING SCI-FI.
"Mind tingling adventure"
With excellent character interactions; the plot twists in this book shows human characteristics in both low and high forms with a true reflection of human nature which we can see shown in the past, present and future. I was glued to this book relishing the next chapters – this is so good it should be made into a movie. I have now downloaded more from this author and look forward to the next mind tingling adventure.
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