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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 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 9 March 2006
Brilliant story of the near(ish) future and working ice miners at the outer edges of the solar system having to become first contact experts and survive truly alien environments. Works a treat - with breathless action, living breathing (and arguing) central characters and many surprises as the canvass he paints on just gets bigger and bigger, until the final revelation in space... I liked this so much I lugged the hardback to and from London for a week or two to finish it. My left arm is now 2 inches longer than the right from the weight, but that's a small price to pay for such an adventure. Perfect film material too - Hollywood - are you listening? So, to summarise, if you haven't read this BUY IT RIGHT NOW!
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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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VINE VOICEon 24 June 2006
I found Pushing Ice an excellent tale, and further proof that for Alastair Reynolds there is definitely life after his Inhibitor novels. The crew of mining spacecraft Rockhopper find themselves embarking on an unexpected voyage of discovery, after Saturn's tiny moon Janus starts to behave very oddly. This has similarities with Clarke classic Rendezvous with Rama, with added corporate politics and interpersonal friction. Some characters remain relatively undeveloped, but most are convincing, as is the future technology, which is impressive but never infallible. Credible aliens and gigantic space structures help this novel to evoke a fine, old-fashioned sense of wonder.
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on 16 May 2007
I think this is a book of two halves. The first promises to build and explore relationships between characters. The second spends a lot of time exploring a new and alien environment. Sadly this is perhaps why the book doesn't work as a whole, although it is still worth a read.

Where the character relationships in a new environment might have been explored in detail, the author zooms out to focus on the "historical record" and even misses how the crew as a whole cope with a whole new set of imperatives. So despite having a nice little mystery to solve and potential hostile races approaching I felt I never really connected with any of the main protagonists. I think perhaps the difficulty in getting the character interactions on the page is the extreme timescales that Renyolds has built into his narrative which limited the opportunity for some personal story telling.

Having said all that this is Grand space opera and really it is not the characters of the story that are important but how it makes you think about space, time, why we are here and why aliens are stopping by for tea every week.

So should you buy this book. I say, yes, you won't be wasting your money.
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on 7 March 2006
"Proper" Science Fiction. Good story, compulsive to the end. If you have read other Reynolds you will like this book, if not (& you like hard SF) then congratulations - you have found a new author!
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2057. In the depths of the Solar system, large spacecraft routinely intercept and redirect ice asteroids and comets into Earth orbit, where their raw materials can be used to fuel Earth's growing economy and incessant need for raw materials. When Saturn's moon Janus inexplicably leaves its orbit and heads out of the Solar system in the direction of the star Spica, an 'ice-pusher' ship named Rockhopper is the only vessel positioned to intercept it. The plan is for the ship to tail the anomaly for a week before returning to Earth. Naturally, complications ensue and the crew of Rockhopper are forced to make a home on Janus as it accelerates towards lightspeed, which will carry them to Spica in 250 years, although thanks to time dilation only a dozen years will pass for those on board.

Pushing Ice is a hard SF novel in the 'Big Dumb Object' tradition, following in the footsteps of Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous with Rama, Larry Niven's Ringworld and Greg Bear's Eon. However, unlike a lot of BDO books which tend to put characterisation way behind spectacle and awe, Pushing Ice is centred firmly on the relationship between two female crewmembers of the Rockhopper, Captain Bella Lind and navigator Svetlana Barseghian, two firm friends who suffer a catastrophic falling-out over the Rockhopper's new mission and whose subsequent relations colour much of the novel. This gives the book an emotional centre which helps make it easier to relate to the more traditional, awe-inspiring spectacle stuff that unfolds later on.

Whilst unrelated to any of his other novels, Pushing Ice features Reynolds' trademark use of non-faster-than-light travel and the inevitable closer interrelationship between humanity and its machines, although broadly along more positive lines than his Revelation Space novels. Pushing Ice is also more relatable, as its technology is less exotic and much closer to current day levels, meaning his characters have to work even harder to survive in the hostile environments they find themselves in.

Pushing Ice becomes a multi-generational tale as life on Janus during and after is voyage unfolds and Reynolds' story reaches impressive new levels of invention as we discover more about the alien Spicans and their goals. There is a strong similarity here to Clarke's Rama Cycle, but he makes more interesting and focused points in considerably less time and pages than Clarke's earlier work, and the characters he uses to achieve that goal are considerably more interesting.

Pushing Ice (****½) doesn't quite hit the same high as Reynolds' masterwork Chasm City, but it comes damn close. As a hard SF novel in the Big Dumb Object tradition, Pushing Ice is a triumph, but achieves its success with more emotion and heart than most such books. This novel is thoroughly recommended and is available from Gollancz in the UK and from Ace in the USA.
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on 26 July 2006
I loved the Inhibiter series but was so bored with the 1920' part of his next book (i even forgot the name) that i could not finish it. Then came Pushing Ice. I read the reviews and many were very negative when it first came out, so i decided to not read it. One week ago i bought it anyway, and ... its brilliant!! Reynolds is back! Buy this book if you like Neal Asher, Peter Hamiltion (his 2 latest), Richard Morgan, Ian M Banks. Reynolds has again proven he is at the very top of the best.
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