What a book!

August 27, 2010

Review: Pushing Ice

Pushing IcePushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest, I was sucked in by the cover. This just looked cool.

How refreshing to find it was hard SF too, which I have been neglecting of late. So what happens is this ship full of comet miners is sent to intercept Saturn’s moon Janus, which has suddenly left its orbit and is flying through space, directly for the star Spica, shedding ice as it goes to reveal a metallic surface. What is it? Who made it? The crew of the Rockhopper are sent to find out. But things go wrong, as they always do in novels, and this first-contact story takes some twists that you don’t always see.

The story, to me, was more about two strong people, who suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of an issue and what happens as a result. This novel could have easily been set in frontier America, Victorian England, modern Texas, anywhere really. But it’s the freeing from present-day restraints that science fiction allows that really makes a story like this engaging (see ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’ by Robert A. Heinlein) as it explores its ideas.

About the hard SF part: Reynolds is an astrophysicist, which keeps the science and even the geopolitical parts of the story fairly well grounded in some kind of plausibility. Character-wise, well, I would have liked to have seen a little bit more from some of the characters, but I will say there is no confusing characters in this book. Each is distinctive.

Some people may find the fact that some basic questions a reader might ask aren’t answered. But I think that’s part of the point. The Earthlings who are finding their way in this book don’t have all the answers, and they find them, some of them anyway, at the same speed as the rest of us.

View all my reviews



  1. I also enjoyed this work, though it is far from Reynolds best (which personally I suggest is the Prefect… though Chasm City and Revalation Space are both hard to beat). I found the conflict between the two protaganists a bit contrived, but even having said that, I enjoyed it tremendously.

    It was, in someways, what Rama II should have been.

    What is your favorite Reynold’s novel?

    Comment by Thomas Evans — August 27, 2010 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

    • This was actually my first Reynolds novel. I’m not even sure my library has any of his others (although it’d be easy enough to get them). Thanks for the recommendations of his other works.

      Comment by mpetrucelli — August 28, 2010 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  2. I wrote a review of PI for Amazon UK and gave it 4 out of 5, but many did give it 3 stars. What i thought made this book stand out were the two themes: the separation from home and the familiar, and friendship between two strong personalities. There was some critism about the two protagonists lacking depth, though perhaps Reynolds just wanted to move the story on without going into much character background.

    He’s great at describing the utter alien-ness of beings that are way out of any reference point of human experience, and likewise the far future technology. There’s certainly no lack of ambition to this book, a lot of big-concept stuff, but then you’d expect that from Alastair Reynolds.

    Comment by Adrian Kyte — August 27, 2010 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

    • Another of his books that didn’t do well, though I enjoyed it a great deal, was Century Rain. It was quite a departure for him, being less hard sci-fi than his earlier works. I loved it, but most seem to be ambivalent towards it.

      Comment by Thomas Evans — August 29, 2010 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

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