Anti-Ice Mass Market Paperback – 1 Sep 1997
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From the Back Cover
1870: the power of the British Empire is supreme. The principles of Enhanced Conductance which are utilized by anti-ice have supercharged the Industrial Revolution. At the New Great Exhibition in Manchester, Ned Vicars, a young attaché at the Foreign Office, meets the discoverer of anti-ice, Sir Josiah Traveller – and the beautiful Françoise. His fate is doubly sealed.
Before he learns the truth about Françoise, Ned must survive an unscheduled trip to the Moon and back. But by then the world has gone mad. The only certainty is war … and anti-ice is the most powerful weapon humanity has ever possessed.
Stephen Baxter, the new star of British science fiction, has written a baroque epic of dazzling originality.
'There is a breed of romance that nudges the what-is to the what-if. Stephen Baxter's 'Anti-Ice' is one of the most compelling of these. A touch of improper amour and impeccable period detail makes all this alarmingly addictive.'
'Outrageous science-fictional entertainment, pulling out all the Vernian stops and playing dice (or is it chess?) with alternative world possibilities'
About the Author
Stephen Baxter applied to become an astronaut in 1991. He didn’t make it, but achieved the next best thing by becoming a science fiction writer, and his novels and short stories have been published and won awards around the world. His science background is in maths and engineering. He is married and lives in Buckinghamshire.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Politically, though, things don't immediately change. British political history certainly deviates from our experience with many 19th century reforms not undertaken and Manchester as the capital and not London. But Continental politics only begin to change after England uses an anti-ice weapon to end the siege of Sebastopol in the Crimean War.
It is at Sebastopol the novel begins, its destruction recounted by the narrator's brother. Then we jump to 1870, and the eve of the Franco-Prussian war. Our hero, self-described as a man of shallow character and shallow intellect, makes the acquaintance of Josiah Traveller, the engineering genius who has developed most of the anti-ice technologies. He also develops an infatuation for Francois, a French woman who is not only politically ardent but also unusually knowledgeable about anti-ice engineering.
The novel echoes Verne and Wells and nowhere more deliberately than a voyage to the moon. Five men -- the narrator, Traveller, his butler, an English journalist, and a saboteur - inhabit a small spaceship. But the narrator discovers more than the depth of Traveller's ingenuity and life on the moon. He undergoes a political awakening about the new order being shaped back on Earth and the true nature of his love Francois.
This is a fun work of steampunk, a nice homage to Verne and Wells. As long as you don't mind your alternate histories built on more outre premises, Baxter presents an interesting divergence of European history. And, though it's relatively brief at the end, he makes a serious point about the limitations of even well-intentioned imperialism.
This book works on a lot of levels. The use of the naive protagonist alongside the newspaper reporter and the professor allows for a lot of exposition without straining the plot. Once you accept the hand-waving explanation of how antimatter got to Earth in a form that 19th century tech could handle, the rest of the technology and history follows pretty logically. And the writing itself is a wonderful pastiche of Wells, Verne, and 19th century English novels in general.
But the aspect of it that I most enjoyed was the political allegory. The parallels of anti-ice technology with nuclear technology followed our own history in many ways: its first use followed by horror at the devastation that it wrought, then an attempt to harness it for peaceful purposes, and finally a cold war in which two super-powers hold weapons of mutually assured destruction. But more subtly, England's domination of France at the end of the book, and France's resentment, could be seen as analogous to US domination of Europe after WWII.
A wonderful science fiction story, but also a lesson on the dangers of the misuse of power, whether it be the destructive power of weaponry or the political forces of imperialism.
The industrial revolution has come a little early and in an unexpected form. An Antarctic expedition finds a substance called anti-ice. So dubbed because if it starts to warm up, it releases incredible amounts of energy. Thus evolves a British empire like you have never seen. Imagine all the great creations of Verne being controlled by the British and available to the common man. Anti-ice becomes the new fuel of the empire. Its discoverer continually finds new ways to use its power. One such method was to power a flying rocket that he travels the world in. But after some sabotage, he finds himself in space and headed for the moon.
Besides fueling the empire, anti-ice can also be a terrible weapon. And wouldn't you know it, Bismarck is on the march and the French are out to stop him. Look out! If you like alternate history of the great voyages of Verne, this is a book for you.