I should probably start out by qualifying this review with the information that this is not the type of Science Fiction I am normally drawn to, but I thought I’d give it a go. If you are a fan of quite political, hard space opera, then this is certainly one for you though.
‘Pushing Ice’ follows the story of the crew of Rockhopper, a mining vessel which normally captures and steers back comets for use by Earth. However, in the middle of one operation, it is discovered that one of the moons of Saturn, Janus, is really some kind of alien satellite, which is hot footing it out of the solar system towards Spica.
After some debate, Rockhopper sets off after Janus, and we travel with them for the next hundred years or so. The main protagonists through the story are Bella Lind, who is the Captain of the vessel at the start of the story, and Svetlana Barseghian, Chief Engineer.
I do admire the fact that Alastair Reynolds has made the two main characters female, and he does discuss the difficulties faced by women in charge of a technical position. However, I did find that I struggled a little bit with the personalities of all the characters. They are so driven and ambitious, and although they may have faults, they didn’t seem to really have the smaller weaknesses which make people human. They never seemed to slack off, or have chocolate cravings, or anything which would give them a degree of frivolity or light-heartedness. Don’t get me wrong – this is a serious book, and I’m not expecting a barrel of laughs, but it did make them feel a bit mechanical to me.
The description of this book in one of the citations as a ‘Space Opera’ fits perfectly. There is a lot of political intrigue, changes of fortune, and some tragedy. The structure is also more like this than your typical Beginning-Middle-End book. ‘Pushing Ice’ is more like ‘Beginning-Middle-Middle-Middle-Middle-‘
I’ve no doubt that it would make a really compelling TV series, and I was never bored or tempted to stop reading, but I did wonder if perhaps it could have been split into two of three much shorter, punchier books.
That said, ‘Pushing Ice’ is an impressive piece of writing, and it does have some very convincing and engaging world creation. The characters are gritty and strong, and quite believable.
My rating: 3.5 stars.