Tuesday, December 7, 2010

[books] Pushing Ice

Pushing IcePushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pushing Ice is my first Alastair Reynolds book. I bought it because it was recommended by the editors at Powell's in Portland (the best bookstore in the western united states, but thats a different story). I'm a big fan of other hard sci-fi authors like Vernor Vinge and Ian M. Banks and this book seemed to have all the right elements of a space opera.

It did not disappoint: it is fast moving, well written, excellent story and it has it all - politics, science, personal drama, aliens. Everytime I thought the book fell into a "usual" mold, the story twisted and accelerated to some other realm. For example: the book starts out with a ship that harvests comets for ice. Saturn's moon Janus, decides to leave orbit and take off on its own - an alien artifact that was masquerading as a moon and nobody realized this. The Rockhopper (aforementioned comet harvesting ship) is ordered to take off after the artifact and figure out what it is. Feels sort of like Rendezvous With Rama doesn't it? Except that it isn't. Its much, much more awesome. Conspiracy in the ship, on earth, who knows where, some bad luck, some bad decisions and the story just keeps accelerating. Starts to feel like Tau Zero. But its not; nor is it fair to give much away beyond this, part of the fun is discovering what happens next.

Its a very fast paced book, really hard to put down. It focuses on a few characters that are developed extremely well - most of the book has a background theme of an ongoing dispute between 2 former best friends. Few things that aren't amazing: while the book is well written, the language itself is not going to win the author awards. This is not to say that its incorrect, just very matter-of-fact. The ending is a bit anti-climactic - but not bad.

Overall: an outstanding work of hard sci-fi. Highly recommended if you like Vernor Vinge and/or Ian M. Banks.

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