08 March, 2010

Review: Pushing Ice, by Alastair Reynolds

Last week I was fortunate enough to sit down with Alastair over coffee and talk about his prodigious body of work as well as his forthcoming novel Terminal World. In honor of the occasion I settled on a reread of Pushing Ice [US][UK], which is a real kicker. Packed with a sense of wonder and mystery akin to more classical works of science fiction, pushing ice will have you wishing it was a trilogy instead of a standalone.

The title of the novel sets the stage, introducing a brilliant and motley crew of space miners whose jobs it is to hook comets and bring them back towards earth - aka, pushing ice. By sheer coincidence, they are the only outfit close enough to reach a moon that is in reality not a moon, but a giant camouflaged machine of extra-terrestrial origin. Racing the Chinese shuttle towards the object, the ship gets sucked into the drive tail of the quickly accelerating moon/machine and dragged to a neighboring solar system... or so they think. Intermittently, the reader is shown glimpses of a distant future where the captain of the ship, Bella Lind, is viewed as the catalyst for human expansion throughout the galaxy.

Pushing Ice is awesome. It is one of those science fiction books that just succeeds in weaving together a multitude of theories and mysteries in such a way as to keep you hooked the whole time. The character dynamics are another high-point of the novel. The interaction between the Captain, Bella Lind, and the rest of the crew is priceless, evincing a depth of understanding of close quarters relationships that transcends genres. So, a la Hunt for Red October, Alastair delivers a compelling drama blended with hard science fiction that will entertain and convince the most skeptical of readers.

Given Alastair's background in all things space, it is no surprise that the more technical scientific aspects of the novel come off seamlessly. Refraining from superfluous facts, the sci fi aspects of the novel are explained in a straightforward workmanlike manner while leaving just enough to the imagination to keep things plausible. Regardless, the focus of the narrative was not on the science but rather on the personal relationships, as explained above.

As usual, I struggle to tell you how much I enjoyed the book without giving away too much and spoiling it for you. In this case, you will have to take my word that the plot twists and turns make for a fantastic ride - so endowed by a unique style and a blend of close quarters drama and hard sci fi. The story arc tends to drag on a bit in the latter half of the novel as the situation of the crew changes dramatically, but the shift felt natural and can even be considered necessary. This isn't cheap military sci fi after all...

For those of you as disappointed with my poor attempt at a recap, I direct you towards a more eloquent review of Pushing Ice. And, for fear of overkill, check out the ever useful annotations in this summary of Pushing Ice - ware the ever present spoilers though...

2 comments:

Dannie said...

This one looks interesting. I'll keep it on my radar.

generic cialis said...

It is an incredible book, it really makes the mind travels.