Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Alistair Reynolds: Pushing Ice

Alastair Reynolds's Pushing Ice is a great story, weakened slightly by following the first contact story that justified the initial adventure to a lot of inter-species intrigue. The adventure is a good psychological thriller with lots of interactions among the crew of an asteroid miner that gets unexpectedly diverted to an interstellar chase in the wake of Janus, one of Jupiter's moons that suddenly leaves orbit and heads for the stars. This is a great premise that justifies a good amount of conflict and chaos, as they move from studying Janus, to realizing the implications of effectively being towed at high speed toward distant stars, to finding a way to survive on the surface of a not-quite dormant alien ship.

The crew goes through internal struggles over whether to abandon the chase while there's still some hope of returning to earth, which involves both politics and some violent attempts to overthrow the captain. The hard feelings left behind color all the crew's later attempts to survive long term starting with supplies meant for a much shorter trip. They spend their time studying the star they're heading for and the moribund uncrewed craft they're tethered to.

Eventually they arrive at an immense structure that provides room for ships from several different species. The Fountainheads are highly advanced and provides rejuvenation facilities that restore several of the human crew (including one who had been in cryonic suspension for most of the trip). The humans get conflicting advice from different alien groups about who they can trust and who is dangerous, and not surprisingly, different factions decide to trust different groups. Eventually, Janus itself is the target of several alien species who expect to be able to reap large energy resources from the craft. I thought the interactions with the aliens and the human political machinations occasioned by the aliens to be much less interesting and more poorly motivated than the first half of the story, concerning how the human crew got along and what they had to do to survive the long trip. The first half definitely made the story worth reading, though.

1 comment:

Robert Ayers said...

From your review it sounds awfully like Rendezvous with Rama and sequels -- and yes, they went downhill too.