This one I read "only" about 10-15 years ago, and I think it was rather recently written at that time.

It begins with a weird, probably alien structure being spotted in the solar system, already on its way out. (And no, it is not “Rendezvous with Rama” nor any of its sequels). Some ship, the captain of which is a woman, seems the one with the best chance to catch up with it before it is out of reach. Which they do, but they are trapped in some accelerator that sends them away at near light-speed velocity. The captain has just time to send back a message with some information about what she found there.

The middle is quite fuzzy. I cannot remember any details.

The only other thing that I remember is almost at the end. Somehow the captain receives a telepathic message sent from Earth (that must have been travelling at light velocity to catch up, considering how fast she is receding away) telling her she is considered (or rather, was considered eons ago, when the message was sent) as a hero on Earth, because the information she sent back was instrumental in hugely improving scientific knowledge. I am not sure how much confort that was for her.

  • Well, yes, the accepted answer there was also "Pushing Ice"
    – Alfred
    Dec 4, 2019 at 10:53

1 Answer 1


This is Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds. From Wikipedia:

While on a routine mission, [Captain Bella] Lind is informed that Saturn's moon Janus has deviated from its normal orbit, and is accelerating out of the solar system. The Rockhopper, deemed the only ship capable of catching up to Janus, is asked to undertake the task of pursuing the moon, sending back as much information as possible before being forced to turn back by the limitations of fuel and supplies. However, on their approach to the moon, revealed to be a camouflaged alien spacecraft, Lind and her crew are caught in the field of the ship's inertialess drive, causing them to travel farther and faster than expected, and beyond their capacity to return to Earth. Realising their predicament, the crew decide to land on the moon and attempt to survive the flight out of the solar system, wherever it may take them.

The message at the end wasn't telepathic; it was part of a massive scattershot of probes which were sent out by the distant future descendants of humanity in recognition of what Lind did, which caught up to the ship in a way which always seemed to me to be abusing relativity.

  • That perfectly fits my memories. The idea that the final message was telepathic and light-speed I probably falsely reconstructed because, as you point out, the probes could not have caught up with the ship without violating relativity i
    – Alfred
    Dec 4, 2019 at 8:54
  • @Alfred Why? If the distance to the "point of encounter" is long enough, the probe just has to be slightly nearer to c. It has the magic "constant acceleration drive", and the point of encounter could well be a billion light years away. The probe would probably be transformed into a hot gas by the blueshifted microwave background at some point. Dec 12, 2019 at 20:28
  • Consider the referential of the ship Bella Lind is in. In this referential, Earth is receding away close to light speed. Earth time, as seen from that referential, is slowed down. But we know centuries have elapsed on Earth before the probes were launched. So in that referential, an even longer (proper) time would have elapsed for Lind. Her corpse would be many thousands of years old even before the probes were launched, let alone have reached her even at light-speed! Daniel Roseman is right, there is something fishy in the book's view of relativity.
    – Alfred
    Dec 12, 2019 at 22:58
  • @Alfred You're treating an asymmetrical situation as symmetrical. Just as with the Twin Paradox, the ships (and probes) are accelerating, breaking the symmetry, and it is the ship and probe that reach their destination in a short proper time while Earth experiences a much longer duration. The probe just needs to travel at a higher speed so it arrives at around the same time or before them, and the distance just needs to be great enough for that to be possible with a velocity less than c, which is the case by the design of the entities that set the whole thing up. Jun 22, 2020 at 19:00
  • @Alfred Alastair Reynolds has clarified this - Janus and thus Rockhopper achieved speeds very close to C, slowing their relative experience of time drastically. Then Janus was placed into a holding orbit around the galaxy for millions of years, which again due to the speeds involved means the Rockhopper crews relative experience of time was still slowed massively. The cubes meanwhile were launched, and found other paths to the structure at the end (perhaps other Janus craft), and Janus was eventually brought to the structure. It all makes relativistic sense.
    – Moo
    Apr 18, 2023 at 1:17

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