Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: Pushing Ice

Pushing Ice is Alastair Reynold's novel of alien contact. Janus, the moon of Saturn, turns out to be an alien artifact that starts accelerating out of the solar system at an unusually high speed. A mining ship, The Rockhopper turns out to be the only ship capable of intercepting it, and the crew, led by Bella Lind, votes to pursue it.

The first third of the book introduces the ship as well as the folks on board, including engineer Svetlana, who uncovers something sinister about the company who owns the ship and has sent them on this chase.

As the plot unfolds, we see the collision between Bella and Svetlana, first as friends, then as unyielding enemies, and then finally uneasy allies. Nevertheless, the novel never forgets that it's science fiction, with a big emphasis on science --- there's tech galore, time dilation, relativistic effects, as well as nano-technology.

And yes, Alien contact. Not just one, but multiple alien contacts. Unlike the kind of aliens you run into in Star Trek, these are real aliens, with different politics, and interesting objectives. I was in any case quite impressed by the ending.

While not particularly deep, and obviously an early work, Pushing Ice is still recommended as a good airplane novel.
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