SF Reviews background image SF Reviews logo image
Contact SF Reviews   |   Get the Newsletter 

Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Maximum Ice

Copyright 2002 by Kay Kenyon

In Association with Amazon.com In Association with Amazon.co.uk
SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Mediocre (2/5)

I first read this on the 12th September 2002 and most recently on the 21st March 2003

A colony ship returns to Earth after 250 years of their time but 10,000 years for Earth itself. Their mission was a failure. They were searching for another habitable planet on which to plant a colony. However in all that time no suitable world was found. This extended period of voyaging through space has left the crew infertile. There are no more births. They hope that a return to Earth will rejuvenate them, perhaps restore their fertility and, if does not, then at least they've come home.

However, Earth has changed in 10,000 years. Now the civilisations are gone and the great cities destroyed. The surface of Earth is almost completely covered by a strange crystalline substance, Ice and What normal land still remains is denuded of life and soon to be covered by this encroaching Ice.

Two groups of humans have survived through the past ten thousand years. There are the people of the Preserves who live primitive lives wholly dependent on their ancient food processing machines, for there is almost no fauna or flora remaining in this Ice world. Secondly there is a powerful, pseudo-religious organisation, the "Sisters Of Clarity", who believe that Ice is a source of great power and strive to discover its secrets.

This was reasonably good fun. The plot's got some variety and excitement. There were some nice characters: Zoya the Ship Mother, Kellian and Wolf, some nasty like Solange and Swan (nasty but amusing in his embarrassment as his own behaviour), and some, like Razo and Bertak, didn't quite make it. One shouldn't forget Father Donicetti, of whom more could have been made.

But there are some big problems and I shall rave about these for a while:

  • Unacceptable coincidences
    A plotline constructed from too many wild coincidences, or perhaps it's too many unexplained connections. Nope, it's not, it is simply too many wild coincidences. I do not accept the likelihood that our wandering band are likely to return to Earth after 10,000 years or thereabouts, just weeks before Ice finally encases the world. I'd have thought a century or two was stretching credibility somewhat, but weeks is an insult even to my intelligence.
  • Failed Fertility
    Whatever may have been the reason for our failed colonists' decreasing fertility, why should they expect to it to recover it back on Earth?
  • The Classic Computer "Logic Problem"
    The logic problem was fatuous. the idea of getting caught in a logic loop is dreadfully old-fashioned, especially one as unlikely as this, especially when there is no relationship whatsoever between the constraint and the objective. There's no explanation give, and as far as I can see, no possible explanation as to why the objective requires exactly this amount of computing power. The constraint is also patently false consider the landscape of this future earth - Ice follows the old landscape fairly closely, is there any suggestion of artificial landscaping to achieve an improved efficiency? Wasn't the logic problem considered serious enough for a bit of help from Lucian Orr? Surely it was more important than any approaching ship.
  • Slow Learners
    the Sisters of clarity have still failed to learn anything about Ice after ten thousand years of studying it? If you were them, wouldn't you have packed up and gone home? I would have dumped the analysis and gone for a drink after a couple of weeks, max.
  • Longevity of Heirlooms
    Can we really be asked to believe that a family heirloom and the world-saving secret contained within has been passed down to father to son for ten thousand years. The oldest heirloom in my family is a scrap of paper from my grandparents bearing the scribbled message "Buy IBM". Not that they bought any of course, but it was still good advice.

The big problem is this ten thousand years. That's far too big a chunk of time. Even two thousand years would have been more reasonable, and would offer a biblical, rather than a Stones, allusion. In fact a couple of hundred years would have done the job nicely, and would have made the coincidences less unlikely.

Surely someone said something to Key like

Apart from all this it was an exciting, interesting book. However, as you can gather, it's far from being a great book. I've come to expect a lot from Ms Kenyon but this was a disappointment.

Loaded on the 1st June 2003.
Cover of Maximum Ice
Cover art by Eric Dinyer

Reviews of other works by Kay Kenyon:
The Seeds Of Time
Tropic Of Creation
The Braided World