Cold As Ice begins with the end of the Great War that killed nine billion people, devastated Earth, Luna and Mars shifting the center of power from Earth to the Jovian moons. Specifically, its the end of the ship Pelagic, her crew and passengers by a hunter killer missile.
Then it jumps forward by twenty-five years to Earth, Jupiter and much further out. The novel focuses on Jon Perry, Camille Hamilton and Wilsa Sheer and they're adventures that lead them to Ganymede and Europa where the big controversy is whether or not to colonize Europa which might be inhabited by native life. That's the major reason that Perry is there. The plot advances through miscommunications, carelessness and a failure to ask questions the three I named there lives are threatened (hell, all but ended).
We also meet Rustum Battachariya, Bat as he's known, the science fiction equivalent to Nero Wolfe - a fat, loner obsessed with the Great War. Who's obsession with the War has payed unexpected dividends for his bosses. He's also unpleasant enough to make me think of Dr. House.
Bat is brought into the mix by Cyrus Mobarak, the wealthiest man in the Solar system who wants to colonize Europa by melting the ice and warming the oceans under the ice. To research this, Mobarak hires Camille Hamilton and Bat to research the feasibility, overcome the problems of warming the oceans. Plus, finding the saboteurs and their efforts.
Now, this is a fine planetary space opera novel and like any Sheffield novel it has plenty of ideas. However, for all that the principal characters are brilliant geniuses, they're also naive as all get out outside of their areas of expertise, especially when it comes to money, people and politics. Because of this particular set of idiot balls that the principals carry, the plot advances through cliffhanger territory. Worse, Sheffield makes some biology mistakes I can't forgive on this.
I'd give it 2 and half stars, but upgraded to three for nostalgia. I'd normally trade it away, but hanging on to it for some ideas.
Likes: The deep space array; The use of Von Neumann machines to mine Jupiter for gases; The ideas for colonizing Europa.
Dislikes: Idiot ball plot and biology mistakes by Sheffield.
Suggested for: Hard science fiction fans, fans of planetary space opera and Charles Sheffield.
Intriguing story. The science is also interesting. It is hard science, not fantasy. Storyline will keep your attention. It extrapolates current science into the future.