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.
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.
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.
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..
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)
I love to listen to Reynold's books. This one was the best yet. I was amazed at how he manages to weave together so many different themes in one breath-taking adventure. Friendship, time, civilization, enmity... I'm truly astonished, not least because it adds up to a real 'page turner' (or the audiobook equivalent). As usual, John Lee's reading succeeds in keeping my focus on the narrative and keeps itself backgrounded. Cannot praise enough!
Can't stop listening. Hard to get any work done or go to bed. Story gripes you from the beginning and never lets up.
have heard just about every alastair reynolds book. thought i might be getting bored with them, but no, pushing ice was great. lots of cool new ideas for me to savor even tho i thought i'd heard them all. no annoying characters or recording gaffs. exceeded expectations. thank you.
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