Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pushing Ice -- Alastair Reynolds

So Janus, one of Saturn’s ice moons abruptly takes off out of the solar system, shedding ice and rock as it goes to reveal the alien spaceship underneath. Fortunate choice, and in every sense, since Janus is the two-faced Roman god of gates and doorways. I could ramble on like the most anal of SF reviewers about how this was an ongoing theme throughout the whole book, but such themes can be found in any book.

Then, after Bella Lind puts it to a crew vote, the mining ship Rockhopper sets off in pursuit. A human story aboard that ship, friendships tested, broken, healed, life and death decisions to be made and sometimes not made too well.

I had a little problem with some of the characters, not because they weren’t well-drawn or weak as some reviewers seem to think, but because they were annoying. I constantly felt that they needed a kick up the behind, whilst one of them could have done with a rock chisel through the back of her head quite early on. Also there was what I’ll describe as a black box MacGuffin that fizzled a bit. Minor points, really.

All this was set against a backdrop of the immensity of space and deep time lovingly illustrated by Reynolds’ knowledge of astronomy and relativity, vast and ancient alien technology, human technology taken to the limit too, and aliens. Yup, sensawunda here, and Pushing Ice pushed all my buttons in that respect. I enjoyed this and I’m glad I bought it.


Xanares said...

Didn't read this one yet, but read all the Relevation Space books together with another stand alone, The House of Suns.

Enjoyed them all and happy about buying them. He is usually the one I recommend together with yourself, when people look for "the stuff".

His characters do come of strange sometimes, but there's good amounts of geeky stuff to make up for it and then some hehe.

MonkeyBiscuit said...

Interesting. I find all the AR novels i have read to be compulsive reading.

I am working my way through the Revelation Space novels (currenly on Absolution Gap, with just the Prefect to go) and absolutely loving them (In fact I would put Chasm City into my all time favourite books list).

This (Pushing Ice) was a christmas present so it's in my queue. I have yet to venture outside the Revelation Space universe apart from Reynolds short fiction so looking forward to this.

Alexander Kruel said...

One of my favorite books. Read it in English back in 2006. On par with Chasm City, Permutation City, Rainbows End or Blindsight.

By the way, I've just started reading Ventus by Karl Schroeder. Bought all his books lately. I waited for them to be translated but it didn't happen. That's why I only started reading his books now.

Afterwards I plan to read John Scalzi

Martin Sommerfeld said...

Very accurate review Neal, especially about the sense of wonder and the characters being annoying you hit the nail right on the head, that was exactly what I thought.

Alexander Kruel said...

It's also one of the few books to mention femtotechnology. As does Diaspora by Greg Egan.

LarryS said...

I borrowed this from the library and read half of it then just stopped. It wasn the book, it was me-you know how you can get writer's block? Well I got reader's block-just wasnt in the mood for reading. I want to try again sometime as I very much like SF written by authors with a scientific background.

Mark T Croucher said...

I like all his books, revelation space is a classic in my opinion. As I said though his bastard books don't fit on my lovingly crafted book case.

Anonymous said...

I love his writing, but theres something about it that makes it so damn slow to read. It's not hard, just the pages just don't seem to end. The other day I spent 4 hours just trying to finish Absolution Gap, it was only 60 pages. AT some point you just want it to hurry up and end. All I wanted to do was start Line War. (thank you for book depository)

I'm with Marc. Still have to read the Perfect and I'll end up buying extras of Chasm City to pass around

Unknown said...

It was Reynolds book that led me to you. I loved revelation space and Chasm city but the rest of the series I found very poor. Too much deus et machina. I gave Him another go recently with Pushing Ice and House of Suns.

Pushing Ice I though had some cool ideas but just wasn't 'great'. House of Suns I really like, I think that's one of the few books Reynolds has nailed beginning to end.