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3.0 out of 5 stars First Gentlemen on the Moon, 19 April 2005
Jane Aland (England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Anti-Ice (Mass Market Paperback)
Stephen Baxter's third novel is a change of pace from his earlier hard-sf 'Xeelee' series, being a stand-alone alternate history novel written in the style of an early scientific romance. The story concerns a chunk of alien matter dubbed 'anti-ice' that lands on Earth and the impact it has on Europe when it is discovered by the brilliant scientists Josiah Traveller and claimed by the British Empire. In broad terms, the discovery of anti-ice, with its immensely powerful properties, results in technology being developed years before it's time, with anti-ice rockets bringing the equivalent of nuclear warfare into the late 1800's.
The novel is bookended by scenes of growing unrest in Europe, with Baxter evoking images of both World Wars, set against a backdrop of a dominating British Empire. Baxter's alternate England with its Mancunian capitol and mono-rails is intriguing, and scenes of the launching of a vast anti-ice powered land ship brings to mind both Michael Moorcock's 'The Land Leviathan' and elements of Baxter's own later novel 'The Time Ships'. The bulk of the novel however, consists of an unplanned trip to the moon and back, when Josiah and his guests find themselves trapped in a sabotaged experimental spaceship.
Much of the material in the spaceflight section would ordinarily be unconvincing (especially how well prepared Josiah seems to be for every eventuality), but the novel is written in a very light-hearted manner. The majority of this section is really fairly standard astronaut material, but it is the attitude of the explorers that keeps it readable, with the 'English gentlemen in space' motif even extending to an in-flight butler, and the explorers surprising discovery on the moon gives the novel a much needed twist.
Slightly negative points are Baxter's sometimes clumsy info dumping of his alternate history by use of unconvincing political conversations between the main characters, and the rather flimsy plot-driver of a French damsel in distress that everyone except the love-sick hero can immediately tell is really up to no good.
Anti-Ice contains some fantastic ideas, but Baxter's execution is sometimes a little uneven, and he would make much better use of this style in The Time Ships. Nevertheless this is an enjoyable light-hearted steampunk romp, and a nice change of pace from Baxter. Good fun.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining nonsense, 3 July 2012
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This review is from: Anti-Ice (Mass Market Paperback)
This would probably be described now as Steam Punk. Victorians in Space.
Anti-ice has been discovered in the Antartic in the mid nineteenth century by the British. A source of immense power, it is used as an energy source in the machines (apparently only vehicles -why?)and weapons of the ever more dominant British Empire, imposing its none-to-democratic will on Europe.
Quite amusing and well worked out but with inevitable implausabilities . Written in the style of Wells or Verne, this is an entertaining trifle rather than a more serious "what if" like, say, the far better Difference Engine.
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Anti-Ice by Stephen Baxter (Mass Market Paperback - 1 Sept. 1997)
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