Cover image for Burning the ice
Burning the ice
Mixon, Laura J.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Tor, 2002.
Physical Description:
544 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
"A Tom Doherty Associates book."

Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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More than a hundred years after a small band of humans stole an antimatter-fueled starship and headed away at near-lightspeed, a colony of those renegades' descendants are now struggling to survive on Brimstone, a barely-habitable world of ice and bitter cold four dozen light-years from Earth. In the long run, they hope to slowly terraform Brimstone, making it, if not Earthlike, at least bearable. In the short run-well, life is hard, and everyone lives in everyone else's laps. Not easy for anyone. Particularly hard if, like Manda, you just aren't cut out to get along with others in conditions of constant crowding and zero privacy. Most people wouldn't be eager to get away from the main colony and work on a scientific project in the howling frozen wastes. For Manda, it's a deliverance. But news of the intelligent life she discovers in Brimstone's depths will change everything-if she can bring the news back to her fellows alive. For, it turns out, there are political plots and counterplots still active in the colony, dangerous twists tracing back to Earth itself...and outward to the stars.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Burning the Ice is already packed, what with first contact, internal conflict, and a violent clash between colonizing clones and their progenitors, the creche-born, aboard Exodus, the original colonizing ship. Yet in the midst of what is quite a ride, Mixon places vital and intense characters. Manda, the only singleton clone in her colony, rubs everyone else the wrong way with trying to do three things at once. Since she likes working alone, she has been put in charge of the search for warm spots in the oceans of the planet that the iced-over moon the colonists inhabit orbits, and for indigenous life-forms. With a friendly geologist's help, discover warm spots she does, and an impressive native creature, too. As a result of a plan to begin warming the iced-over moon, an earthquake strikes, massively damaging the colony, at which point the colonists learn that Exodus is still hanging around. The novel's first-contact scenario, threatening destruction of colonizers and indigenes alike, is splendidly realized, and its engaging portrayal of interhuman conflict is even better. --Regina Schroeder

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this gripping and ingenious SF novel, Mixon (Astro Pilots) takes us some two centuries from now to Brimstone, a planet many light-years from Earth and settled by clones from the starship Exodus, who are trying to terraform the ice-covered world. In the forefront of this effort is Manda, a singleton (one whose cloned twin is dead), restless, inquiring and by local standards something of a sociopath. Enter a rockfall that kills the rest of her siblings and threatens to wipe out the colony from starvation. Also enter one Jim LuisMichael, friend, ally, lover and fellow explorer of the remote reaches of Brimstone. There Jim and Manda discover intelligent alien life, in the form of a gigantic organic computer, as well as a deadly plot against both the aliens and Brimstone by the remaining Exodus crew members. To keep the terraforming going, the "croche-born" in space are prepared to destroy the aliens, whom Jim and Manda foil at nearly the cost of their own lives. Then only a split in the croche-born's ranks and the heroic resistance of the colonists keep the croche-born from winning an outright war. While hardly short of action or fascinating scenes of alien contact, the novel's real strength lies in the author's depiction of the future society, with its complex system of degrees of kinship, social obligations and controls, sexual mores and even appropriate pronouns. The ending may be a little rushed, but the vivid storytelling and a high level of imagination mark this as perhaps Mixon's best work to date. (Aug. 22) Forecast: Blurbs from Brian Herbert, Frank M. Robinson, Fred Saberhagen and Jack McDevitt will help attract SF fans who go for alien societies in the classic Dune tradition. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The colony of clone family groups laboring to terraform the ice-bound planet Brimstone into a habitable world includes outcast Manda CarliPablo, left alone when her clone sibling died at their birth. A series of suspicious accidents leads her to a pair of discoveries that could mean either the transformation of the colony or its ultimate destruction. The author of Glass Houses and Proxies explores the essential nature of humanity and its relationship to individuality and free will in a novel that is part coming-of-age story and part sf suspense. Recommended for most sf collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 Singing the Icebrine Blues That morning before breakfast Manda stopped by her work chamber to check her marine-waldos' night's work. The chamber was an ugly, rock-hewn room with poor lighting and a thatch floor. In the room's center, a device that looked like a hiker's daypack hung from a wire web suspended below the rough ceiling. Already decked out in her livesuit and -hood, Manda slipped the livepack on and plugged its leads into her yoke. Her liveface appeared before her as she did so, rendered on her retinas by lasers in the specs set into her livemask. Glamour filled the room, a glowing sphere that defined her projection pod. A host of 3-D icons appeared: shiny, translucent satellites locked in Manda-static orbit. First Manda touched her communications-cube, and it expanded into a thicket of geometric shapes. With economical movements, she checked her mail and messages, then folded the commcube up and called up her marine-waldo data. It blossomed around her in glistening bouquets and thickets of numbers, charts, and graphic landscapes, and she began to sort through it all. Her handcrafted fleet of eight marine-waldos, the Aculeus series, had collected a lot of information, and she had a lot of data to get through since she had taken the evening off yesterday. But it wasn't long before fingers of cold seeped in, disrupting her concentration. Beneath all the protective layers Manda had on--layers of plastic, organic, and metallic fibers, one after another till she could scarcely bend elbow or knee--she shivered, nicking virtual icons with cold-clumsy hands and elbows. Data strands fragmented and cascaded down the inner boundaries of her projection sphere. "Shit." With a sigh, suppressing both her frustration and the shivers, she recovered the data, reconstructed it, and started again--dancing her marine-waldo control dance, working her fingers, arms, legs, and torso to guide her fleet of machines across the dark floor of the ocean, to read its secrets with their instruments. She was the colony's best waldo pilot. The best. Amid the billions back on Earth, how could any single human presume to be the best at anything? For that, at least, she was glad to be one of the handful who lived on this freezing, barren world. She hadn't lost a machine yet, in almost eight seasons of piloting in some extremely dangerous environments. And she didn't intend to start now. But she was growing tired of this latest assignment, this fruitless search through the depths of Brimstone's frigid waters. Arlene had suggested the ocean search project to Manda, while the rest of the clone geared up on Project IceFlame. Whatever secrets lay beneath Brimstone's icy crust had stayed hidden ever since the JebediahMeriwether twoclone had died fifteen seasons ago, while exploring the ocean floor in their deep-sea submersible. The colonists knew little about this world they inhabited. When Arlene had suggested it, this assignment had seemed ideal. Manda hadn't been interested in attempting a collaboration with the rest of her sibling group--even if it would have put her at the controls of the winged waldos that would shortly be strafing the methane-laced ice at the poles. They had all the skills they needed without her, and without a twin she was always the odd one out. She wanted to carve out her own space, not simply try to fit into theirs. But all she'd found so far was dark and cold, and she'd had her fill of those. At least her prior assignments--flying the jet-waldos up to the poles, and using land-explorer equipment to take ice and air samples there--had turned up interesting data to analyze. Even her tedious and dangerous first assignment, driving a tractor-waldo across rotten tropical ice floes, mapping the myriad island chains down there and looking for signs of volcanic activity, beat this oppressive succession of days scanning barren rock and lifeless brine. Manda was a woman of planetshine, of air currents and ice fog and indigo sky. In her aerial and terrestrial waldos she could outrun the cold...or so she pretended. Down here in the ocean there was nowhere to run. The chill pressed in all about. Thousands of tons of water and ice lay overhead. Even the sounds were oppressive, the gut-deep groans of shifting floes that carried to Manda's detectors across thousands of kilometers of gelid liquid. She'd heard sounds like that, once, in a documentary in their archives: growls both agonized and determined; the moans of a woman in labor. The ocean's cries sounded to Manda's ears as if the world itself were trying to give birth. And the dark too, oppressed. Her fleet of marine-waldos had computer-enhanced vision; their visuals swirled with false-color images. But it was all unreal, no different than the hallucinations that swarmed behind her eyelids while she lay alone in bed at night--shivering, sweating--filled with unreasoning certainty that any minute now, she would die. Her chest had grown constricted; through the pores of her livemask she gasped for air. With a pirouette that bordered on panic and a set of finger flicks on the translucent control icons that orbited her, Manda retreated from the waldo she rode. She wadded the whole thing up, shrinking its inputs till it was merely a shining ball of reduced data in her hands, and set it loose to float amid the other balls of compressed data at waist level. This took only a second to do. Then, with a word or two, she adjusted the livesuit settings, and bent over till the pressure eased. Nerves, that's all , she told herself. She touched a different waldo's commandshape and the dodecahedron grew till it swallowed her, infusing her with its sensate data. Maybe , she thought, calmer now, as a current lifted her marine-waldo, Aculeus Quinque , over a rise blanketed in faint, neon-green rocks--as she scanned the ocean floor with infrared skin sense and magnified-light eyes and sonar ears, as she tasted the ocean currents with her waldo's thermocouples and chemical composition detectors-- maybe it really is time for a job change . Moss or bamboo harvesting, polar duty--judah shit, even baby-tending--would be better than this endless dark. (OK--maybe not baby-tending.) Maybe she should join the terraforming effort. Manda pulled off her livemask and tam--and saw that Teresa and Paul had paused at the doorway. Teresa and Paul were tall and muscular, with smooth, almond-dark skin and yellow-green eyes, and kinky, ginger-blond hair--their faces and bodies an identical, exotic mix of African and Scandinavian features. The bristles of Paul's short hair stuck up through the mesh of his livehood; Teresa's hair was longer, pulled back in a severe ponytail pressed flat under the translucent mesh of hers. Teresa had breasts and broader hips than Paul. Otherwise they were the exact image of each other--and of Manda too, other than the eight seasons of age they had acquired that Manda hadn't yet. "Talking to yourself again?" Teresa asked with an arch smile. Manda realized she'd been vocalizing her unhappiness. And as usual, Teresa's teasing stung--probably more than she had intended it to. "I'm trying to work. Leave me alone." Teresa's expression went flat. Paul pointed a finger in Manda's face. "Lay off my sister." He followed his vat-twin away. "She's my sister too, asshole," Manda said to their backs. Then regretted her testiness. Warm it up a therm or two. Your clone is just about the only friend you've got . This irritable back-and-forth between her and Teresa-and-Paul was a stupid pattern, but one Manda felt helpless to change. From childhood, when Teresa and Paul were adolescents and Manda was "the baby," they'd always fought too damn much. Teresa was always provoking her, scolding or teasing--and Manda usually insulted her in response. Which invariably brought Paul around to Teresa's defense. Which resulted in a fight between Manda and Paul, which caused Teresa to further provoke Manda in defense of Paul. Round and round we go , Manda thought. She'd have to apologize later. That's when it dawned on her that she shouldn't be this cold--not this cold. She minimized the commandball again and then disconnected herself from the livepack that hung suspended in the middle of her projection pod. All her command-, program-, and databalls shrank, flattened, and moved toward the center of her vision, and the hazy boundaries of the light-sphere that defined her projection pod vanished. Then she noticed the rock wall, which was beaded with frozen condensate. Frozen ? The readout above the thermostat on the wall read two degrees Celsius; that couldn't be right. Striding over to the wall, she ripped off a fleece-lined shell and nylomir mitten and her live-glove. She touched the wall's white, chalky surface with her bare left hand. It was cold. Sticky-cold, as the sweat from her fingertips froze. More like minus fifteen. The heating system had failed again. With a sigh of disgust Manda recoiled her frizzy braid. She pulled the slick-soft mesh of the livehood down over her head and face again, dragged the tam's cuff down over her ears, pulled her gloves and mittens back on, and plugged back into the livepack. The sphere reappeared around her. She stabbed at an icon that now hovered at shoulder height, which solidified as she focused on it. " Damn you, ObediahUrsula!" she snapped at the two young, round faces that materialized. "I can't work with the heaters failing all the time." ObediahUrsulas' brows puckered and their eyes widened. So young. What were children doing in charge of something as critical as the heaters? "It's, it's just that--" "--the thermostats are--" "Don't. Give. Me. Another fucking sob story about equipment breakdown." The words darted out of Manda's mouth in explosive puffs. "Just fix it. If I lose a waldo, I'm going to put your name down as the cause." She stabbed the com icon off in the midst of their reply, and rubbed her hands over her painfully spasming diaphragm. A knot in her throat formed, swelled, threatened to burst. "Goddammit." She swallowed the knot, washed it down with a dose of anger. "Damn it to hell." A pair passing by in the corridor glanced in at her and shook their heads in disapproval. They were PabloJebediahs: the twelve-clone's next-to-youngest siblings. PabloJeb and ObediahUrsula were closely allied, and Manda had probably just disrupted some sort of delicate, inter-clone power balance. Too bad . She glared at them until they went away. Then she pulled her livehood back over her head, adjusted her specs and mic, and hooked back into her livepack. Her data- and command-balls reappeared, within the confines of her sphere of light. All right , she admitted to herself. It isn't ObediahUrsula's fault the heating systems are failing. But if I didn't yell about it nothing would get done, and we'd all freeze to death . She reconsidered and started to disconnect; she needed to calm down, and was getting hungry for breakfast anyhow. But a glimmer in one of the dataglobes at waist level caught her eye. Probably nothing--another false alarm; Aculeus Septimus's visuals might need calibrating again. Or. Maybe this time it was the hydrothermal vent she was looking for. The place where, if this frozen, forsaken pissball of a world had any remnants of life left, it would probably be. Shaking her head at her own optimism, Manda reached out for the little sphere, which showed a snippet of ocean floor with a bit of flickering red in it. Copyright (c) 2002 by Laura J. Mixon Excerpted from Burning the Ice by Laura J. Mixon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.