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Pushing Ice

a novel by Alistair Reynolds

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Pushing Ice Review

  • May 13, 2011

If you readers haven't guessed that I'm an Alastair Reynolds fan by now, I'm just going to dispel all your doubts right now, he's great. He's written some of the best SciFi I've read in the last 5 years. Pushing Ice continues this trend.

Bella Lind is the captain of a mining vessel operating far out in the solar system. Their core mission is to mine comets for ice to bring back to Earth. During one of their missions Saturn's moon Janus starts to move, inexplicably, out into interstellar space. As Bella's ship is the only one near Janus they are tasked with chasing and exploring Janus before it moves to far away. Bella and her crew get pulled in by the moon and are dragged out into the universe.

Reynolds has a great imagination for these plausible yet entirely creative situations that he puts his characters in. I was drawn in completely by the idea of an object in our solar system just moving. Where Bella, Janus, and her crew goes becomes more compelling as they go on.

As a scientist Reynolds brings a reality to a lot of his books that is lacking in a lot of other SciFi. This story, as strange as it becomes, doesn't stray too far from the plausible, all of it is stated with a fair amount of authority. Even when the story takes some weird turns the people react the way that you would expect them too.

The characters, however, grow a little flat as the story goes own. They don't particularly grow with the events in any way. Bella and her friend Svetlana are interesting characters, and the rift that occurs early is tragic and you feel for both of them. The problem is, the relationship doesn't change, and it becomes almost annoying how little it changes.

The character Wang, a Chinese astronaut, has several important scenes, but disappears for long stretches. I really feel like he could add some definite spice to the narrative.

The book leads to a tension filled conclusion that is satisfying, if not a little ambiguous. The backdrops like Janus and the Structure are not really explained. Reynolds has made a decision that in the end it's maybe not as important for the story, and in truth it isn't, it just was too much like the end of Lost. I was emotionally satisfied but was not intellectually satisfied.

Pushing Ice falls in the middle of the Reynolds spectrum for me. It's no Chasm City orRevelation Space, but I liked it more than Terminal World (which I actually really enjoyed). It's a very well written book, and some of the flaws are outweighed by the pacing and general interest of the story.

Even if you aren't an Alastair Reynolds fan, I would definitely recommend this book. If you like Space Opera or Hard SciFi, by all means, read this book.

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More Pushing Ice reviews
review by . April 07, 2011
posted in SF Signal
Unlike most of his space opera novels, Pushing Ice is set in a different universe than the one of the Inhibitors. This gives Reynolds the freedom of a new history and new ideas, but he keeps the high speed but not FTL travel that is a hallmark of much of his space opera. The story begins as a frame story set some thousands of years in the future, on a distant planet. The polity gathered there have done so to honor the person they consider responsible for the existence of their civilization and …
About the reviewer
Ian Peterson ()
Ranked #535
I write a Science Fiction culture blog called SciFiReaders.
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