Ice is basically Alastair Reynolds' attempt to
sequels to Rendezvous with Rama,
scratch off the serial numbers, and rewrite them so that they don't
suck as much.
In this, he succeeds. Although, honestly,
pretty low bar to clear.
The spoilers in this reaction will contain deeper spoilers than most of
my reactions. In general, I follow a policy of not spoiling content
beyond the first 50 pages of the book. That will not be the case with Pushing
the strengths and weaknesses of the book is actually rather
challenging. Reynolds lacks consistency throughout his narrative, often
soaring to compelling heights only to crash back to mediocre depths.
For example, as a re-imagining of the Rama milieu,
the first challenge for Pushing
is the creation of the Big Dumb Object (BDO). The initial conceptual
strokes of the BDO are absolutely riveting: Without any warning, Janus
-- one of the icy moons of Saturn -- suddenly starts accelerating out
of the solar system. Unbeknownst to any of us, the entire moon had
been masquerading as a spaceship for countless eons.
when the main characters actually reach the BDO, the details are shoddy
and underdeveloped. Reynolds paints with a broad and unfocused brush:
We're told repeatedly how "strange" and "enigmatical" Janus is, but
we're never shown any of the details necessary to really bring the
place to life.
But then Reynolds turns it around again: The
BDO leads them to an even bigger BDO, and that BDO
-- and the larger mechanism it's part of -- is really fascinating. And
the revelations of its true nature are not only continued until the end
the book, but beyond it (as I believe Reynolds is subtly hinting at
that even his own characters don't realize).
One of the areas where Pushing Ice
dramatically improves on the Rama
sequels are the interpersonal dramas of the main characters. To put it
succinctly: Instead of being derived from cheesy soap operas, they're
truthful and meaningful.
Even here, however, Reynolds has
consistency problems. For example, the central drama of the novel
revolves around the schisming friendship of Bella and Svetlana.
Reynolds is attempting to create a dynamic in which two people can both
vehemently disagree with each other and both be right
from their own point of view.
And if he had actually pulled it off (as he
to doing), the result would be absolutely breathtaking.
Unfortunately, it doesn't work. Largely
resorts to both protagonists being inexplicably idiotic.
I think the company is hacking into our computer systems and altering
the data. But I found a backup that they forgot to change. Here it is.|
Okay, I have my doubts. So what I'm going to do is tell the corporation
exactly where the backup data is that you're claiming they forgot to
change is. Then I'll wait awhile. Then I'll go and check it to see if
it says what you claim it says.
SVETLANA: Wait... what?
BELLA: My god! It no longer says what you claim it said! You're lying
Okay. That's pretty bad. But it gets worse.
I've decided that you were right all along. Now that I believe you, I'm
using the true version of the data that you brought to me to conclude
our only possible course of action is X.|
SVETLANA: Well, I hate you. And so I think we should do not-X!
BELLA: You mean the course of action which, if you weren't lying to me
before, would mean our inevitable death?
And silliness ensues.
mean, I'm obviously supposed to take it all seriously. But when you set
up this Titanic Clash of Wills(TM) in which both characters are
mentally deficient... well, it's a little hard to take them seriously.
end result of all this is a book which I found both compelling and
frustrating in almost equal measures. It was a book that could both
keep me up into the wee hours of the morning frantically turning pages,
and simultaneously a book that would leave me slamming the covers shut
In the final analysis, Pushing Ice
is a thoroughly mediocre book that could have been (and should have
been) great. This puts it one step up the rung from the
sequels (which are thoroughly awful
books that could have been great), but there's still too much dross to
dig through to find the good bits (which are, at times, very, very