Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
The burgeoning new economies in near-Earth space are fuelled by a steady stream of comets, steered back home by huge nuclear-powered mining ships like Bella Lind’s Rockhopper. They call it pushing ice.
Bella and her crew are desperate for some much needed R&R – until Janus, one of Saturn’s ice moons, inexplicably leaves its natural orbit. As it heads out into the solar system at high acceleration, layers of camouflage fall away; it appears that Janus was never a moon in the first place. Now this moon-shaped machine is headed towards the star system Spica, two hundred and sixty light-years away.
Rockhopper is the only ship anywhere near Janus, so Bella agrees to catch up and shadow the machine-moon for the few vital days before it falls for ever out of reach. In doing so she sets her ship and her crew on a collision course with destiny that will test friendship and loyalty to its limits: for Janus has more surprises in store – and not all of them are welcome.
Pushing Ice is a 2005 space-based science fiction novel (never been keen on the term ‘space opera’) from Welsh author Alastair Reynolds, which starts on the humble mining ship Rockhopper as it carries out its routine job of shepherding a comet back to Earth. Run by the determined but personally-scarred captain Bella Lind, the mission changes abruptly when one of Saturn’s moons comes to life and rockets away into outer space. There is a limited time window for Earth to gather some data from the moon machine before it moves beyond reach, and Rockhopper is the only ship within range; an exciting opportunity for some of the crew, but for others a risky and lengthy detour when they have already been away from home for too long. Bella, taking the first of what will be many significant and controversial decisions, decides that despite only being a ship that ‘pushes ice’ – a phrase used throughout to remind us of the ship and crew’s unambitious but practical nature – they need to assume the mantle of responsibility and try to get what they can from Janus.
As Rockhopper gives chase events begin to cast doubt in the minds of some of the crew, particularly Bella’s closest friend Svetlana, who thinks that they might be being kept in the dark about certain things by the owners of the ship back on Earth. As they get nearer to Janus, tensions rise and eventually an immense decision will have to be made, which tears Bella and Svetlana’s friendship apart, and the Rockhopper crew. They will either have to land on Janus and get carried out into space or find a way of dropping out of its slipstream, possibly destroying themselves in the process, and hope that Earth sends a rescue ship before systems run down. For now, Bella is victorious, but this is only the beginning of the adventure for the Rockhopper and its crew.
Pushing Ice blends an epic space adventure of colossal alien structures and technology that defies imagination with a very human story of survival in the bleakest conditions imaginable, extreme psychological stress, politics, and the hope that one day they will be able to make it back home. Bella and Svetlana, their friendship broken beyond repair, form the two leaders whose conflict and leadership will determine the future of the Rockhopper crew, until outside forces mean they will have to confront even greater challenges than they realised.
This novel follows the classic structure of starting small and moving on a journey towards an epic conclusion, but manages to combine both a large-scale view of the incredibly vast and alien world that the Rockhopper crew come into contact with, with a strong focus on human relationships and survival. As the story moves forward across years, it expands alongside the Rockhopper’s new community and brings in ethics and morals, life and death decisions, punishment, religion and humanity’s place in the universe and across the vastness of time.
There is a great deal of in depth science which some people may be really keen on, though I found myself skipping the more incomprehensible parts of the physics of speed and time, but Reynolds’ sheer scope of imagination and ability to paint elaborate alien worlds means that there is something for everybody. I really liked the very human relationships at the core of Rockhopper, even if for me Bella could get a bit self-sacrificing at times.
This is one of the best science fiction books I’ve read, up there with Arthur C Clarke’s work, and a book I would highly recommend to science fiction fans.
This Pushing Ice book review was written by Cat Fitzpatrick
Have you read Pushing Ice?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Pushing Ice reader reviews
9.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that's seen better days, offers her everything she co...
Marjorie B Kellogg
Set in the future on a distant world, Lear’s Daughters tackles the issues of global warming, pollution, exploitation of resources, and disastrous climate change. Long...
Iain M Banks
It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself. Lededje Y&...
The Naked God
Peter F Hamilton
The Confederation is starting to collapse politically and economically, allowing the 'possessed' to infiltrate more worlds. Quinn Dexter is loose on Earth, destroyi...
The very far future: The Galaxy is a drifting wreck of black holes, neutron stars, chill white dwarfs. The age of star formation is long past. Yet there is life here, feedi...
When Streaker - the first starship designed and crewed by dolphins - discovers a derelict ancient armada with evidence of the first sentient species ever, she sets off a wa...
James SA Corey
Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making r...
An Ancient Peace
The centuries-long war between the Confederation and The Others, a group of violent alien species, is over. Intergalactic peace is finally restored. Torin Kerr and her crew...
During all recorded history, the Moon has hovered above our heads, a timeless symbol for lovers' ecstasy. Goddesses & Gibson Girls have tripped the light fantastic ...
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, ...
James SA Corey
On Ganymede, breadbasket of the outer planets, a Martian marine watches as her platoon is slaughtered by a monstrous supersoldier. On Earth, a high-level politician struggl...
The Uplift War
As galactic armadas clash in quest of the ancient fleet of the Progenitors, a brutal alien race seizes the dying planet of Garth. The various uplifted inhabitants must batt...
Old Man's War
John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife's grave. Then he joined the army. The good news is that humanity finally made it into interste...
The Dreaming Void
Peter F Hamilton
The year is 3589, fifteen hundred years after Commonwealth forces barely staved off human extinction in a war against the alien Prime. Now an even greater danger has surfac...
Khesh City floats above the surface of the uninhabitable planet of Vellern. Topside, it's extravagant, opulent, luxurious; the Undertow is dark, twisted and dangerous. ...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...