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Icehenge [Paperback]

Kim Stanley Robinson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 15 1998
On the North Pole of Pluto there stands an enigma: a huge circle of standing blocks of ice, built on the pattern of Earth's Stonehenge--but ten times the size, standing alone at the farthest reaches of the Solar System. What is it? Who came there to build it?

The secret lies, perhaps, in the chaotic decades of the Martian Revolution, in the lost memories of those who have lived for centuries.

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Voted one of the best science fiction novels of the year in the 1985 Locus Poll, Icehenge is an early novel by Kim Stanley Robinson (author of the trilogy comprising Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars) and takes place in the same universe. The story is part mystery and part psychological drama, divided into three distinct sections.

In the year 2248, Mars is ruled by a Politburo-like committee that actively discourages dissent as well as travel and exploration of other planets. Scientist Emma Weil becomes involved in a covert plot to convert a stolen ship into a self-supporting spaceship. She turns down a chance to accompany the starfarers, and returns to her beloved Mars where she joins the revolution already in progress.

Three centuries later, archaeologist Hjalmar Nederland unearths a governmental cover-up of the true facts behind the old revolution. At the same time, a Stonehenge-like monument is discovered on the north pole of Pluto, and Nederland sets out to prove his theory that the monument is connected to revolutionaries and their contemporaries who left for the stars. Seventy years later, his great-grandson Edmond Doya becomes convinced that Icehenge is a hoax, and attempts to disprove Nederland's theory.

In addition to futuristic issues such as interstellar travel and the terraforming of Mars, Robinson's characters grapple with politics, careers, families, and aging. Icehenge is a worthy introduction to the author's winning combination of hard science and believable characterization. --Bonnie Bouman


"Unforgettable." --The Baltimore Sun

"In a genre not often distinguished by strong characterization, Robinson is a welcome exception. Yet even the memorable community of his The Wild Shore did not prepare us for this brilliant triptych in which the monolithic artifact of the title and the events surrounding it are described and examined from widely different points of view. The distinct, personal voices of the narratives, as they construct and deconstruct their elegant theories, are a pleasure rare in SF." --Publishers Weekly

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By ilmk
Having saturated myself in Robinson's excellent Mars Trilogy several years ago, Icehenge ended up being one of those purchases that sat on my shelf for some time. Picking Icehenge up several years after its publication has not detracted at all, as the author's easy creation of a realistic solar society still remains on course and, given the advances in genetics over recent years, all the more plausible.
Icehenge is a story set in three parts told by three connected people over several hundred years. Robinson seeks to take archaeology into the future to demonstrate that the provision of primary written evidence is inevitably biased and that written evidence of what we will do will become too distorted and too historically complex for our future generations to be in any better position to understand than our archaeological techniques can today.
The opener, narrated by Emma Weil tells of her unwitting participation in a somewhat idealistic attempt by the underground Mars Starship Association to set off for pastures new beyond our solar system. Her love affair is woven in as both a motivator and an explanation for the links between Weil and Davydov, giving us a story of a group of people determined to leave the solar system to colonize pastures new. Heavily influenced by the political situation on Mars at the time it culminates in Emma's return to Mars to be part of the uprising and final destruction of New Houston. A voyage in both the physical and mental sense, part I is intensely reflective and demonstrates the struggle between idealism and reality, between fact and perception.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Phil Dick ideas, Thomas Pynchon style Sept. 18 2002
I've long had to admit that while I liked Stan Robinson's writing, I had never read any of his novels, just his short stories in magazines and collections. No more, although the case could be made that Icehenge is a collection of three novellas. In fact, parts of Icehenge were published as "To Leave a Mark" (in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction) and "On the North Pole of Pluto" (in Orbit 21). This is the reason why I picked Icehenge to read first, before Robinson's first published novel, The Wild Shore; that is, to satisfy my anal retentive (does that have a hyphen?) desire for reading things chronologically. Icehenge is three stories inter-connected, each from a different time period and point of view. The first tells of Emma Weil and the Martian Unrest. The second of Nederland and his archaelogical investigation into the Unrest. And last is Doya, who questions whether Nederland's "proof" is actually an ingenuous hoax. Complicated? Yes, but also done in such a way that the convolutions are easy to follow. Robinson admires Philip K. Dick--his graduate thesis was on Dick's novels--and it shows in the theme of this book: what is real? What can we trust? Several people have recommended his latest novel, Red Mars, to me, and I do intend to read it...after I finally read all these others of his that have been sitting on my to-be-read shelf for far too long.
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By CasmA
The central premise of this book is that even though a vastly extended lifespan may be possible in the future, a person's ability to remember past events may be limited to those events that have taken place within the last century. The book is all about archaeology, both in the traditional excavative sense and in the discovery of memories hidden deep in the minds of the characters. In this future where everyone lives a long enough life to write an auto-biography, the novel is appropriatly split into three such accounts from different time periods, although it is not ever made clear whether the accounts are true or works of fiction within the novel itself. To it's credit, the novel never really resolves these issues; the sources are presented as simple evidence without comment, and it is up to the reader to draw their own conclusions, should they wish.
Capable of being read as either a simple who-dunnit, or as a serious piece of fiction with well-developed characters and interesting concepts, this novel deserves to be a classic. Good science fiction should present a future that seems plausible, in Icehenge it is hard not to believe that you are reading about a past that has already taken place, although not necessarily as the accounts describe.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Robinson doing what Robinson does well May 27 2002
Both the cover and the start of the review above suggest that Icehenge is a part of KSR's "Mars Trilogy" world. This cannot be - the novel has Mars in it, but apparently Mars is still run by some UNOMA/TA like body ("The Mars Development Committee") some years after Blue Mars. It might be better to think of Icehenge as being an early prototype for the Mars series, with various themes and styles being tried out. ISBN/ASINs 0812533623 (The "Green Mars" novella of 1987) and 0312861435 (The Memory of Whiteness) are two books written before Red Mars that are set apparently in the trilogy universe, for those interested.
Icehenge is a study in how archaeologists and other scientists try to explain a mysterious ring of monoliths found on Pluto. The novel is divided into three parts: an account that provides an initial explanation of the monument's creation, a story of the struggle of an archaeologist who discovers this account to have it believed, and a final voyage to the site to find out the truth. There is some very dry satire here, egos being ruffled, power games being played, and crank scientists raising "Atlantian" type explanations for everything. Along the way, the advances, and failures, of the society in which this is based are explored. Mars is run by a dictatorship which can no longer tell the difference between opposition and fraternization. People can live for ever, but at the cost of their memories and their sanity. History is written, and then rewritten, and then written again, depending not on the evidence but on the egos and powers of the day. This is an all too real future that Robinson explores in far more detail in the trilogy.
Robinson paints characters with detail and love, fleshing them out almost to the same degree as in his later novels.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Cool Book about a Cold Construct
A great story about an impossible consruct leads the main characters to search for the meaning behind it and the people that placed it there. An easy and speedy read
Published on Nov. 22 2011 by fastreader
5.0 out of 5 stars Who build Icehenge?
This is a fantastic book by an excellent author. Icehenge gives you the journals of three individuals all somehow connected with a mysterious monolith on Pluto. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2003 by Andrew J. Porwitzky
3.0 out of 5 stars A good appetizer for the Mars Trilogy
If I hadn't already read KSR's Mars Trilogy, I'm not sure I would have liked this book much. This book was written 10 years before Red Mars/Green Mars/Blue Mars were published, but... Read more
Published on March 26 2002 by Robin C.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great out of the starting gate
Kim Stanley Robinson debuted with this book and The Wild Shore practically in the same year, something that doesn't happen too often. Read more
Published on Jan. 20 2002 by Michael Battaglia
5.0 out of 5 stars Plutonian monuments & millennial life spans
"Icehenge" is a great science fiction novel at a number of levels. On the surface it is a something of a mystery, namely, who put those ice megaliths on Pluto? Read more
Published on July 20 2001 by Edward Bosnar
3.0 out of 5 stars Great read, but leaves one wanting more to think about
My thoughts on Icehenge are difficult to gather - it's a gripping story, a page-turner. Page-turner-ness is an important criterion for any book to rated highly. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2000 by David J. Huber
4.0 out of 5 stars Really FOUR and a HALF .
This is one of Robinson`s best earlier works. Icehenge has a good story with memorable characters and events that lead to a good ending. Read more
Published on June 20 2000 by James Atkinson
4.0 out of 5 stars Really FOUR and a HALF stars
Very good book. The only problem was the fact that it didn`t mesh well with the Mars trilogy. Well written with a good plot that keeps you reading throughout the night (and day). Read more
Published on June 19 2000 by James Atkinson
2.0 out of 5 stars A puzzle
I didn't get this book. It was somewhat interesting, but at the end, I didn't know why it was written. Read more
Published on Jan. 9 2000
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