IN SHORT: Janus, one of the moons of Saturn, breaks orbit and accelerates out of the solar system. Captain Bella Lind and the crew of the mining vessel Rockhopper are the only people capable of reaching it in time.
WHAT IT IS: Alastair Reynolds once again showcases his firm, confident hand at creating worlds full of breathtaking technology and fascinating alien races. Pushing Ice is, foremost, a first contact novel and features two very unique alien races for the crew of the Rockhopper to interact with. The machine-world Janus and the massive Structure are both full of entertaining mysteries for the human characters to unravel. Femto-technology is just a wickedly cool concept, and the final reveal at the end of the novel still sticks in my head.
Oh yes, Mister Reynolds can create some awesome worlds.
WHAT IT IS NOT: I didn’t like the characters. In particular, I found Svetlana to be annoying. This is my typical reaction to an Alastair Reynolds book. There are also some inconsistencies in the world building this time that bugged me and detracted from the reading.
WHAT I THOUGHT: For every epic world-building reveal, there’s a character moment that just didn’t feel satisfying. The characters aren’t bad, per say. I just didn’t find them all that interesting. But don’t worry, they’re not the stars. Janus, the Structure, the benevolent Fountainheads, and the plain creepy Musk Dogs are the real stars, and they shine brightly.
With that said, a number of plot points came up that left me scratching my head.
START – MINOR PLOT SPOILERS
- The Fountainheads, one of the two main alien races, are supposedly skilled in first contact. They’ve been there, done that. Well, they aren’t very good at it, apparently, because they accidentally kill the first human they meet.
- The plot twist involving the femto-cube felt contrived, both how it appeared (out of nowhere) and how it was removed (by Svetlana being a dumbass). And for an artifact of such God-like power, it really didn’t do much.
- Janus’ negative reaction to repetitive behavior just struck me as odd. Why would repetition be viewed as a lack of intelligence by a giant machine that, basically, keeps doing the same things over and over again? I mean, it kills a guy for taking the same path to work everyday. What the flip?
END – MINOR PLOT SPOILERS
These nitpicks aside, I did enjoy the book. It’s full of real mind-stretching ideas. I loved the whole concept of the Structure and the mysterious race that built it. I just felt the novel needed an extra layer of TLC to polish it up and take it to the next level.