This is solid hard sci-fi, the story of a human crew pushed to do something extraordinary, and what happens to them under the pressure of it all. The narration takes a bit of getting used to. The. Narrator seems. To insert pauses. In random. Spots. But in the end I quite enjoyed the delivery.
Technically Reynolds paints an interesting and convincing picture of a near future space-faring society. He seems to delight in the intricate details of how a space crew might operate, and the way in which scientific principles that are quite abstract here on Earth become so important in the context of space travel (red shift for example).
It's a story that is ultimately about the relationships between the crew members, which bodes well, but unfortunately the characters are never entirely convincing and the plot skims the edges of melodrama in places.
Perhaps most frustratingly (especially for people drawn in by the similarity to novels like Rama) the characters never share the curiosity and wonder that we feel as readers when they encounter the amazing sights and sounds that the plot gradually reveals. So prepare to spend hours and hours wondering what on Earth Janus actually is, while they bicker, poke around in the engines, play with fish, fiddle with spacetime, and generally couldn't seem to care less.
So in the end although Pushing Ice is an interesting tale with a decent enough pay off, and will still appeal to fans of the genre, it doesn't quite live up to its first promise.
I am in awe of Joe Abercrombie, he writes stories that are visceral, filthy, grim, philosophical and funny, balancing high and low fantasy (mostly low in this case) on the fulcrum of a gripping narrative. And the bodycount is astounding.
You might be better off starting with the First Law Trilogy (as the resonances here will make you smile) but Red Country is a fine stand alone tale. It channels the spirit of the Wild West, but never feels like a clash of genre's, more as if you have wandered off the edge of the map of his previous fantasy world and are blundering around in the Far Country. For that skilful mix alone this is worth a read, I've never seen anyone do it better.
Narration by Steven Pacey is excellent again, capturing just the right levels of weight and levity.
The new characters are interesting, well-rounded and sometimes even survive. Abercrombie is building up quite the cast list. But the old characters are always welcome, and two in particular will have you laughing and grimacing in turn.
So a welcome addition to the canon and well worth a five-star rating. Recommended!
Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy is an accomplished work of fantasy. This first book has an involving well-paced narrative that draws you in with likeable characters, enjoyable banter, and a plot that cracks along. Given that it's a first book in a trilogy it is also surprisingly self-contained, with a satisfying resolution all of its own.
Others have commented on the novel and well-thought through magic system developed in the book: Allomancy - based on consuming and burning metals. The good news is that Allomancy is more than an intriguing concept; because it is so well explained, and because we understand its limits, we understand what is happening when Allomancer's clash, appreciate the twists and thrills of the fight, and see the risks and the dangers. This enables Sanderson to build real dramatic tension in a way that is much harder when wizards are miracle wielding supermen - its a clever conceit, and the system just gets better and better in the later books as new aspects are revealed.
The narrator is excellent too, so this book is worth checking out all on its own. Original, clever and fun.
The trilogy it starts is also impressive. The second and third books are somewhat different to this one, slower with a weightier character, but they build to an audacious conclusion. The plot threads are complex, with twists and revelations throughout the whole trilogy as the full history and theology of the world, and their many interconnections, are exposed. He clearly thought this through!
Some of the other reviews have mentioned a simplistic style, with a lack of descriptive text and adjectives. Don't worry, this is known as good writing. It means that Sanderson uses the actions and thoughts of his characters to convey what is going on, without resorting to lazy tropes and unnecessary flowery language.
The Final Empire is a stand-out book, and the trilogy as a whole represents some of the best modern fantasy out there. Trust me, this one's a keeper.
Lynch has written an excellent story in the spirit of Fritz Leiber, with characters that do full justice to their Grey Mouser and Fafhrd ancestry. Pastiche this is not. Witty, cunning, and occasionally swashbuckling, his characters dance through the stained glory of their fabulously imagined city and into a special place in fantasy folklore.
The audio book is beautifully read by Michael Page, and you can tell that he is relishing the plummy accents of the extended cast.
A fantastic listen. Highly recommended.
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