Zoya Kundara has lived on the space vessel Star Road for two hundred fifty years. As its Ship Mother, kept alive in a state of pseudoimmortality, she has provided wisdom and counsel to succeeding generations of its crew, self-exiled survivors of earth's great plague.
But now, to escape the ravages of space radiation, the giant starship has returned to earth, only to discover a world on the verge of extinction, its barren surface blanketed in a crystalline substance that resembles ice and that is slowly, inexorably encapsulating the planet. Zoya is chosen as emissary to this strange new earth, and now she must approach its denizens and find a suitable home for her desperate crew among the shrinking lands.
But what she finds shakes Zoya to her core: groups of humans huddled like moles in underground techno-warrens called preserves, and a pseudospiritual order known as the Ice Nuns, who seek control of the physics-defying crystals and enslave their disciples in their crazed quest for truth. For on this once green land, Ice and the science behind it are now the only God-and mastering this grand ecology of information the only higher calling. Allies are few and far between, but somehow Zoya must uncover the secrets of Ice and halt its expansion.
- Philip K. Dick Award
Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Worth Reading
Posted February 29, 2012 by Reader , LAGood book.
2 . Excellent Sci-Fi
Posted December 05, 2010 by Yvette Davis , Wenatchee, WAExcellent book, not to be missed. I also loved The Seeds of Time but don't see it offered here. Pick it up if you can, it's worth the read.
January 28, 2002
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Maximum Ice by Kay L. Kenyon
Zoya lay on her bunk in the shuttle cabin, listening for sounds of earth. But there was nothing, not even wind. The earth was a silent place, at least here, in this wide valley.
The shuttle had set down in northwest Canada, between the continent and Vancouver Island. The names meant nothing now, especially the political names. Among the few relevant geographical names were the mountains. As they had descended yesterday, they had glimpsed the range of the Olympics jutting up through the planet's new firmament.
Their landing site had once been the Strait of Georgia. Now it was a broad, flat valley between low hills of crystalline landforms. The shuttle crew was calling it crystal. After they had landed, people crowded around the view screens, seeing the facets, the gem-shapes protruding from the ground like distorted images of the vanished trees. There had been a profound silence as the crew stared out. The sun was setting, putting a glare on the landscape--a little disturbing and overbright, like a good song turned up too loud.
Zoya sat up. By her wrist lex, it was almost dawn at this latitude and in this season, late autumn.
She touched the diamond studs in her ear. Their solidity reassured her that she was awake, in the real world. Ah, but what was real? The suspended land of quasi-sleep, or the consensual realm of waking? Both lands had their claim on her. Sleep could brag of the centuries--but waking always got her immediate attention. There was coffee, for one thing. Good gossip. Winning at cards. Actually, it was a long list, and she recited it every time she awoke--the reasons why life was good, even amid disasters.
Throwing off the covers, she called for lights and abandoned her bunk. Sleep was hopeless, and a sunrise beckoned. Now she would see all the sunrises, in sequence. The role of Ship Mother could fade, since her people were finished with the long star road. Ship Mother had been the tether to home, conceived as a tradition to preserve tradition.
But, truly, she was ready to stop parceling out her days.
In moments she had dressed and was heading down the corridor. Her impulse was to get moving, do something, talk to people--go outside. Only the science crew had been outside so far. You can go out in the morning, Lieutenant Bertak had told her. Easy enough for him to put it off, he hadn't been waiting 250 years.
She almost collided with Fyodor Mirga, just emerging from the science station.
He was dressed for the cold.
"Going outside, then, Fyodor?" she asked, thinking she might slip out with him.
Fyodor looked eager. "I couldn't sleep. Might as well get an early start." He was supervising the boring in the research tent outside, where a drill had been working through the night to provide a sample core. "The drill is jammed," he added.
"Need some help?"
"Sorry, Ship Mother. Lieutenant Bertak says . . ."
He didn't like to turn her down; only Lieutenant Bertak enjoyed that. They had not hit it off well, she and the first mate.
Fumbling in his pocket, Fyodor brought out a translucent rock, a piece of crystal formed into a tiny, perfect obelisk. He pressed it into her hand. "A piece of the earth," he said.
She felt her throat swelling shut. Before she could embarrass herself with tears, Fyodor turned down the corridor, waving good-bye, as two crewmen joined him. They were fully armed, and looked sour to be awakened so early.
Zoya turned the crystal over in her hand. Fyodor didn't hesitate to call it a piece of the earth. There was something sweet and bold about the statement. Looked at strictly scientifically, the average atomic composition of the substance was silicon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, calcium, and other elements, in the precise ratio of the old earth's crust. But the crystalline material was no known mineral. This notion frightened most of the crew; but Fyodor had the look of a boy in a bicycle shop.
Once in the shuttle galley, she activated a cup of coffee and keyed up the view screen. The shuttle's outside lights showed the near vicinity: the research tent, and surrounding it, a flat basin strewn with erratic, faceted slabs, like jumbled ice flows. Wind blew eddies of clear sand, glittering in the floodlights. It drifted into piles. However long earth had worn its coat, it had been long enough to erode slightly, producing small grains of crystal.
The view didn't crush down on her as it did the crew. Never an ardent Catholic, Zoya still saw wisdom in the injunction against despair. To her, this was a fresh start, a place swept clean of old dangers and ancient sins.
Somehow, the land was inhabited. From her work so far on the content of radio transmissions, the local language was related to English. With her linguist's ear, she was already picking out phonological similarities to Star Road's dialect. The lexical and syntactic changes from Ship's English were not as profound as she would have guessed from the long time period involved. Given the harsh global conditions and difficulty of travel, there may have been few outside influences to propel changes in syntactical rules and vocabulary.
Additionally, from hundreds of points around the globe came transmissions, in many other languages. So people had survived. It was well to remember these miracles amid all their sorrows.
For the ship had returned without children. Star Road's crew were as fruitless as the crystalline fields outside. The youngest of her people was nineteen.
Earth was--or so they had presumed--the haven where they would renew themselves, the warm and green cradle of life. There might well be other such worlds, but Star Road hadn't found them. And now the ship was out of time. This might be the last generation of Star Road, with its women unable to bear children to term, the consequence of 250 years of interstellar radiation that not even the vaunted microceramic shielding of the great vessel could successfully halt.
She was startled at a movement in the corridor.
Janos Bertak, the ship's first mate, stood in the doorway. "What are you doing?"
"We heard noises in here."
She laughed. "Well, Janos, it was only me. I hope I'm not breaking curfew."
Her attempt at lightheartedness was met with a grimace.
Janos Bertak had a full mustache that failed to make up for a seriously receding hairline. When he frowned it involved his whole forehead and bald pate.
He was a nervous man. For one thing, they had brought the small shuttle down with only fourteen crew. Anatolly had judged that the number one shuttle, with its prodigious armament, would send the wrong message to the local inhabitants, so he sent the small one. Another of the first mate's worries was his wife. Janos Bertak was middle-aged and Tereza was young. She was a great beauty, with classic features, and that creamy skin and red hair that graced generations of women and men in her family. Zoya remembered Tereza's great-great-grandfather Halvor--now there was a man who knew how to please a woman.
Janos turned to leave, but she stopped him. "Fyodor went outside," she said. "Could I join him, just to watch?"
"I have enough to worry about without you going outside."
She couldn't suppress a smile. "Janos. Nothing would stop you from worrying." It was the wrong thing to say. He left the galley without comment, moving on to the next worry.
Zoya took out the piece of crystal and rubbed her finger along its smooth side. Leaning into the comm node, she hailed Fyodor, whose shadow she could see moving in the bright tent. "By the way, Fyodor, thank you for the gift."
She placed the crystal on the table in front of her. In the semidark galley, it lay torpid, bleached of color.