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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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Alistair Reynolds follows a common path in many of his novels - a slow, even soporific start that gradually escalates into the best, purest expression of what I think of as 'hard space opera'. A repeating theme in all his work is 'even within the fundamental limits of the universe as represented by our known physics, the universe can be a magical place', something he normally does by shifting the frame of reference from the immediate timescale to something grander. Of all the sci-fi authors I have read, and there are many, he is the one that most consistently blows me away in terms of the majesty of his vision

Pushing Ice is somewhat of a departure because it focuses very tightly on human relationships rather than grand systems or epic concepts. It's fundamentally a story that is about the somewhat petty humanity that we have to overcome to accomplish great things, and the wedges that get hammered between people when our fallibility has extreme consequences. The two main characters are written with believable compassion. Despite representing two sides of the same coin, and despite the diametric opposition in which they are cast, neither of them comes across as the obvious villain. You can't really revel in their victories or setbacks because fundamentally they are decent people doing things for the right reasons under the most difficult of circumstances.
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on 4 May 2015
A very enjoyable novel. It starts off slowly building the environment both physical and psychological before things start to happen. Stick with it its worth it. The crew of a comet mining ship in the late 21st century are tasked with intercepting a moon of one of the giant planets which has broken its orbit under its own power, obviously a fake moon and an alien spaceship. There are many aspects to the story including local politics and enmities. Most of it is based on real science except for the advanced technology. Reynolds works pretty much within standard physics, special relativity, and tends to ignore the possibility of faster than light travel, e.g. Alcubierre warp drive, wormholes but its fun.
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on 22 June 2017
The premise and underlying ideas behind this novel are excellent. Unfortunately it is let down by long periods where nothing much happens, with boring events drawn out for an eternity whilst the more interesting closing stages where the story really takes off are skipped over rather quickly. Some of the most exciting ideas are under-utilised, with one technology in particular disappointingly never allowed the chance to show what it can do. One of those books that opens up exciting possibilities and then fails to fully explore them. Also let down by some painfully awkward dialogue between characters. I expected more having read some of the reviews on here of other Reynolds titles which seem to say this one is great.
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on 25 December 2014
easy to read story. best blending of past and future i have ever read. but two main characters are a bit childish about holding grudges. a human legacy which reaches across space and time, was ment to be very powerful but doesn't do much. still a good read. one or two very good bits but does not build up to a big finish.
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on 20 December 2006
Reynolds succeeds in creating a storyline that pulls you along - you do want to know what happens next. True, there are gaping holes in the plot and the characters lack realism or depth but you always believe that there is something about to happen around the corner and in this he does not disappoint. I didn't think much of some of the aliens, though - or their silly spaceship. The plot ends in such a way there is plenty of room for a sequel.
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on 17 July 2007
** Slight spoilers **
If you haven't read Reynolds before, start with one of his other novels. If you are a bit of a completist like me, then give it a go. The novel is very good, without reservation, up until the exiling. I fast-forwarded through the character problem bits after that, but I wouldn't recommend actually skipping chapters, as there are still a lot of good ideas to be found in it. I wouldn't be averse to a sequel, as the character problems are moot by the book's end, and the universe of the book is well worth further exploration.
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on 3 November 2009
Oooh! Didn't you just want to bang old Lind and Barseghian's heads together????

What a pair of idiots eh!

And here lies the focal point of a lot of the criticism levelled at this book. Poor, weak characterisation of the main protagonists - and I agree, both do come across as a bit moronic and definitely not leader material.

Ritually I always read Amazon reviews after I've finished a book, never before, (I highly recommend this practice) and judging by a lot of the reviews here, these two 'weak' characters seem to have really got up the noses of a lot of readers.... but help is at hand, come and visit where I work and I can point out a dozen useless, limp, argumentative, not fit for purpose, petty people all in various positions of power. So it can happen, why should all leaders be correct decision making, mighty, strong armed heroes?

I liked this book for this exact reason, I loved the fact that I found myself uttering under my breath 'you idiots!' and 'why on earth are you acting like that?' and my personal favourite, which I murmured rather a lot 'you stupid dunderheads!'

Yes this may not be Reynolds best, but I found myself swept along with the grand ideas that the novel presents, it gave glimpses of vast intelligences and left me with an overarching feeling of insignificance.

I was disappointed to finish the book with so many questions unanswered, but my imagination is doing its best to plug the gaps - and that, in my opinion, is the sign of a good novel.
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on 3 January 2006
Pushing Ice isn't perfect, but it doesn't deserve some of the very negative reviews it has received (one talks about FTL travel which doesn't appear anywhere in the novel other than as speculation during conversation - so they haven't read it that carefully).
This is a novel of big ideas occurring over cosmic timescales. For me it successfully evoked the helplessness that would be experienced by humans when they are caught up in events they are unable to control and can only struggle to understand. The story manages to throw up plenty of revelations and plot twists - some expected, some not - whilst throwing up interesting questions on the ultimate futility of any human (or alien) endeavour. Yes, some of the characters are underdeveloped (Wang being a very significant one for me), but there is a driving energy behind the story that is maintained until the final page and that compensates for any shortcomings. Alastair Reynolds set the bar very high with his early works and whilst this is not quite the equal of them I feel that it is a stronger book than Century Rain and I'm already looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
Read it and enjoy it, but try not to worry too much about the ultimate futility of doing so.
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on 11 October 2011
Pushing Ice being my 9th Alastair Reynolds novel (excluding the already read Zima Blue and Galactic North story collections), you could say I'm kind of experienced when it comes to the realm of the science fiction of Reynolds, and of modern space opera at that.

The start is a little confusing with a profusion of job oriented individuals aboard a mining ship. This is quickly dispensed with as the plot builds. With the sudden announcement that their mission will be refocused to intercept a self-powered moon of Saturn, the crew becomes split whether to head into deep space after the anomalous craft or to stay put closer to earth. As the time elapses during their solar system traversing, it becomes abundantly clear to engineer Svetlana that the fuel situation isn't as it should be. This is the major crux of the novel when Svetlana feels belittled by her knowledge even with years of experience, feels betrayed by her captain and friend and future arch enemy Bella, and feels victimized and persecuted by her own company. Her victimization and intuition play an important role in her stance among the sympathetic crew. This is only within the first third on the novel, too!

The next third of Pushing Ice reads much like Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars where the colonists (unwilling colonists on the once-moon Janus) form a government, trek across a barren and mysterious landscape and deal with unending problem of a social being also being opinionated and fractional at the same time. Growing pains are felt, sentences are dealt and egos take a pelt.

The remaining third reads much like Charles Stross' Accelerando, where the characters are subject to rapid changes in technological advancement towards the singularity. In Accelerando, this scientific singularity approaches rapidly when the cast are hammering out new thingamajigs every other page as they explore their every changing social standing. In Pushing Ice, this singularity is being limited by the aliens which have benevolently coddling them along in the years. We see the colony grow, the hate come to a slow and the possibilities glow.

The only hitch holding back this niche of humanity is the witch-with-a-b cat fighting. Svetlana is a conniving demon breed of women who spits fire and never forgets past transgressions. Bella, on the other hand, has a mild temper, has the patience of a saint even while in exile and is able to forgive her captors. The reoccurring flares of Svetlana's hatred towards Bella and her distrust of any second-hand information is a serious annoyance, enough to drop the entire novel from a 4.5 star rating to a 3.5 star rating. You'll just want to yell at the book, "Get it over it woman! Jesus!"

Reynolds pens a pretty good novel here. A great addition is added to the novel, that addition which we see in the opening: a future human civilization wants to pay tribute to Bella's great deed 18,000 years ago and does so by an unmentioned means. The means brings about a much greeted addition to the last third. The dialogue isn't nearly as dry as the Revelation Space series and it isn't as spastic or chronologically chaotic like Century Rain. It's a pretty easy read considering its nearly 600 pages. Some of it is a tad predictable but not in an overencompassing manner. I would have liked to have seen Janus better explored, the aliens better explored and the Object better explored. Having said this, the exploration of what Reynolds created wasn't satisfactory to me but left me with enough awe to be content with.
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Like `House of Suns', this book is not set in the immersive universe of the Revelation series. With the initial claustrophobic ship based chapters, Reynolds has recaptured some of the ground left vacant since the 70's by Pohl and Clarke with the hard science fiction simply providing a backdrop for the interpersonal politics arising from a normal crew being plunged into exceptional circumstances. The story gradually expands to encompass the exploration & colonisation of Janus (very reminiscent of Clarke's Rama) and the impact of its arrival at `the structure', but the relationship between the crew members is always the primary element.

As with all of the other Reynolds I've read, the story rocks along at a cracking pace and its linear narrative makes for a far easier read than the Revelation stories but, as such, it does seem to lack a certain depth. However, the basic premise is highly original, the visualisation is superb, the storyline is gripping and there are plenty of unexpected twists. There can be no doubting the craftsmanship of the novel but I did find some of Svetlana's actions disproportionate and extreme and this, for me, slightly spoilt the plausibility of the tale. These comments notwithstanding, I still really enjoyed this book, not least for its classic sci-fi atmosphere and Reynolds' trademark taut and engrossing storytelling.
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