Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Alastair Reynolds, Pushing Ice

by Jerry Wright

Pushing Ice
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Publisher: Ace Books
Hard bound: 458 pages
Price: $25.95
Alastair Reynolds is on my "always read ASAP" list. I have some favorites. I'll always read anything by Lois McMaster Bujold. And Terry Pratchett. And Sharon Lee with Steve Miller. And Charlie Stross. And after the wonderful Century Rain, I moved Reynolds onto that list too. And once again, I'm not disappointed. This is a terrific book with a sensawunda.

It starts about 18000 years in our future, segues back to our near future, and then accelerates. In a most literal sense.

Bella Lind is Captain of the Rockhopper, a huge ice miner working beyond the asteroid belt. "Pushing ice. It's what we do." Just as they are getting ready to send a comet back to the inner system, one of Saturn's moons, Janus, decides to head for deep space in the direction of Spica, shedding ice as it accelerates. And of course, there's only one ship close enough to catch it, yep Rockhopper.

Bella needs to convince her crew to head out. After all, they are ice miners, not explorers. She convinces them by a slim margin, but as they start accelerating toward Janus, Bella's best friend and Chief Engineer finds some anomalies that convince her that they have a fuel shortage and if they can get there, there won't be enough fuel to get back. And since Bella makes a decision to believe the company stooge instead of her friend, this begins the long running battle between Bella and Svetlana Barseghian.

Things get worse. They get sucked into the slipstream of the accelerating moon, and soon they are flying at a strong percentage of lightspeed. And then they discover they are heading toward an "artefact" that spans (if I recall correctly) a distance equalling that of distance between Mars and Venus. Huge. Humongous. Nivenesque.

The story varies between the politicking and rivalry between two former friends, the super science of the long-lost Spicans, the simple necessities of setting up housekeeping on Janus, and first contacts with aliens such as the Fountains, and the Musk Dogs.

Even though the novel is almost 500 pages long, the story rather quickly wraps up in the last 50 or so pages, giving it somewhat of a rushed feel at the end. That's okay. I know Bella and Sveita, even if I wanted occasionally to slap some sense into them. The story is a fine piece of writing, and I believe, up for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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