Alastair Reynolds’ Pushing Ice starts off with a scene that smacks of Space Opera - the SciFi subgenre that he’s always accused of writing - when Chromis Pasqueflower Bowerbird (the name alone almost made me close the book) makes a political gambit in the Interstellar Congress. Thankfully, the book quickly moves to a more traditional – and interesting – plot: when Saturn’s moon Janus turns out to be a an alien spaceship jetting out of the galaxy, a ship of ice miners is recruited to track the ship back to its destination. Along the way, unexpected events occur and the miners are cut off from the rest of humanity, forcing them to land on Janus.
Reynolds skillfully paints a picture of the pervasive paranoia that overtakes the crew as
they attempt to figure out a way to survive. He convincingly portrays the
mysteries of alien technologies – the lava canals are a nice touch! – and has some really interesting alien interactions, especially
with the race called the Fountainheads. Towards the end of the book, more
revelations come to light that dramatically expand the scope of the novel – all
I’ll say is that the “structure” the crew discovers introduces the true epic nature
of the book. All in all, it was a compelling read for my beach vacation. In fact, the only real problem I had with the book was that the characters were a bit too
stubborn or noble: there’s a mutiny that occurs and the absolute rigor with
which it’s pursued over the years, even in the face of the crew’s overwhelming predicament,
is hard to believe. In addition, the nobility of Perry – a well-respected man
in the crew – is difficult to swallow, as is his honesty in dealing with the
crisis that overcomes him. Some of these melodramatic interactions bordered on soap opera, but didn't prevent me from enjoying Pushing Ice, which was much better than I anticipated - especially after that name!
Cross Posted on Reading, Running and Red Sox