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Literature / Pushing Ice

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Pushing Ice is a hard Space Opera novel by Alastair Reynolds. In the year 2057 Saturn's moon Janus powers up and begins exiting the solar system in the direction of the Spica system. The ice mining ship Rockhopper is the only ship that can intercept Janus, so they are dispatched to carry out a flyby before the moon leaves the solar system forever. Needless to say, their visit to Janus turns out to be a lot more permanent than the crew of Rockhopper were anticipating...

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Pushing Ice contains examples of:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Uncontained is a fierce aggressive species, attacking and killing any other encountered species in the Structure. The Musk Dogs are also inherently evil, but they use the tactic of deception and betrayal rather than direct aggression.
  • Asteroid Miners: Or more precisely the comet miners. This has been a job of the Rockhoppers's crew, before they were urgently reassigned for the chase for Janus.
  • Big Dumb Object: Janus, the Spica Structure and the unknown megastructure. Each following is much bigger than the previous one.
  • Big Good: The Fountaiheads are surprisingly honest and benevolent species. They rejuvenated the aged members of the Rockhopper's crew in exchange for an access to the Janus' power source. And they also tried to warn humans about the danger of the contact with the Musk Dogs.
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  • Detonation Moon: At the end of the novel, Janus has been exploded by the meddling done by the femtomachines of the Musk Dogs.
  • Distant Epilogue: Both the prologue and epilogue take place eighteen thousand years after Janus leaves the solar system. Due to Time Dilation, this is both long after and long before the events of the story.
  • Eldritch Starship: The Gristleship, a mothership of the Musk Dogs has been named for its disgusting appearance, resembling the half-digested remains of somebody's prey.
  • Grey Goo: Accidentally doing this got China kicked out of the UEE. Svetlana sets one off when she tries to build a passkey for the Structure.
  • Last of His Kind: The population of the colony founded by the Rockhopper's crew in the Structure is implied to be the last possible remnant of the human species.
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  • Longevity Treatment: The Fountainheads gave this to humans in exchange for an access to the Janus' power source.
  • Human Popsicle: Freezing people is a relatively straighforward procedure, but no-one has ever defrosted and healed a human. The Fountainheads are able to do this to bring back Jim Chrisholm and Mike Takahashi.
  • The Mutiny: The crew schisms over whether to return to Earth and risk running out of fuel, or land on Janus and never see home again. The majority side with Svetlana and Craig, deposing Bella.
  • Nanomachines: The Chinese are masters at this, being able to grow just about anything in their forge vats. The forge vat salvaged from Shenzhou Five proves critical to the survival of the human colony on Janus. The Spicans build their structures from femtotech.
  • Nuclear Option: Rockhopper uses decommissioned NATO nukes as mining charges. They can also be used as an Improvised Weapon.
  • Precursors: The unknown ancient aliens who built Janus, the Spica Structure and the Structure in which the main characters ended up. Humans dubbed them the Spicans. They are nowhere to be seen by the main characters, but in the ending is strongly implied that they had been killed in the Structure by captured species a long ago.
  • Reactionless Drive: Janus travels by means of it.
  • The Reveal: The Rockhopper's journey ended up not in the Spica Structure, but in the unknown megastructure located in the unknown part of the universe. There was a strong hint that the Structure is so distant that rest of humanity had gone extinct, while Rockhopper was still in the flight to the Structure.
  • The Singularity: The Fountainheads reluctantly revealed that humanity had passed through it some time after Rockhopper leaved the Solar System.
  • Starfish Aliens: All encountered aliens are truly alien. The Fountainheads are around 3 metres tall and resemble a flowing fountains with multiple layers of coloured limbs erupting from a central core, such as found on a willow tree. The single Musk Dog resembles "many dogs fighting over a single bone". The Whisperers are even more stranger. They are made of the mirror matter, invisible and can interact with the "ordinary" beings only through a gravitational interaction.
  • That's No Moon!: Saturn's moon Janus turned out to be a huge alien spaceship.
  • Ultimate Evil: The Uncontained is regarded as the biggest threat in the Structure, but the main characters never had seen what they and their ships are look like.
  • Time Dilation: The high speeds attained by Janus' inertialess drive send it far into the future relative to Earth.
  • Wrench Wench: Svetlana possesses both the brains of a nuclear engineer and the body of a champion free diver. This makes her very popular with the media.
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