Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds

This is true Space Opera. It starts in the far future when humanity have conquered the stars and inhabit thousands of planets. Senator Chromis Pasqueflower Bowerbirdpropose a program to memorise Bella Lind, the hero that started it all. Then it shifts back to 2057.

Rockhopper is a nuclear powerd mining ship, one of many that fuel earth’s space economy with a steady stream of comet raw material. Bella Lind is the captain of an elite crew of 150 or so. They call their work Pushing Ice.

So when Janus, one of Saturn’s ice moons breaks orbit and heads for the stars, Bella and her crew are the only ones that can reach it in time before it leaves the solar system.

The mission is voluntary and most of the crew is behind it. But the company has lied to them and faked their fuel situation. It is a suicide mission, they will not be able to return after reaching Janus. But Svetlana, Bella’s best friend and the ships chief engineer starts to suspect the truth. Bella confronts her former lover who is the CEO of the company but due to lack of proof she decides to continue the mission. This leads to a break with Svetlana.

The book focuses to a large part on the conflict between Svetlana and Bella. That deep friendship can turn to extreme hatred.

The Rockhopperend up slip streamed with Janus and heading for a mysterious alien cylinder some hundred light years from earth at 99% of light speed. Svetlana blames Bella and with a majority of the crew behind her they exile Bella while they try to survive on Janus.

But that’s only the first step of their travel. They are propelled at near light speed to a gigantic alien meta structure in the far future. Someone is collecting civilizations at the end of time.

The circle closes both with the future history of Man as their memento reach Bella and with Bella’s and Svetlana’s friendship. It’s a truly epic story. The painful conflict between two good friends is so well told you can feel their anguish.