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Inferno
2005-Feb-22, 11:08 PM
I'm looking for a good science fiction read about Mars. So far the books I've read have been pretty ordinary.

In "Red Mars" I got very sick of the characters, and from about half way on just wanted them all to die. "Moving Mars" was ok, but very predictable.

Disinfo Agent
2005-Feb-22, 11:28 PM
What sort of book are you looking for?

The Supreme Canuck
2005-Feb-22, 11:51 PM
I didn't like the Mars trilogy either. Weird politics. Bleach!

Yorkshireman
2005-Feb-23, 10:52 AM
I suppose what we recommend depends on what you didn't like about Red Mars. I actually liked the Mars Trilogy, although it was slow going at times. Assuming you want the science to be well grounded, and not Edgar Rice Burroughs, but still don't mind the odd bit of wild speculation... William Hartmann's Mars Underground was a good read and I liked the characters, as was Greg Bear's Mars.

Stephen Baxter's Voyage is a cracking good read as well, although it's not a book about Mars as such, or even set on Mars. It's more a book about how NASA might have got there in the 1980's if history had turned out differently.

ToSeek
2005-Feb-23, 05:32 PM
Bradbury's Martian Chronicles is a classic but is more like a story collection than a novel.

John Kierein
2005-Feb-23, 07:13 PM
I recently re-read "The War of the Worlds". Actually held up pretty well after all these years. Written in 1898 by H. G. Wells.

Omicron Persei 8
2005-Feb-24, 07:16 AM
Stephen Baxter's Voyage is a cracking good read as well, although it's not a book about Mars as such, or even set on Mars. It's more a book about how NASA might have got there in the 1980's if history had turned out differently.

I'm in the middle of it right now and am greatly enjoying it.

EvilBob
2005-Feb-24, 08:36 AM
Arthur C. Clarke's "Sands of Mars" and Asimov's short story / novella "The Martian way" are both favourites of mine.
The Mars trilogy bored me too - I didn't like any of the characters much, and the politics got really bogged down...

brianok
2005-Feb-27, 08:36 PM
Although not a Novel, one of the best short stories that I have ever read was "A Martian Odyssey" written by Stanley Weinbaum.

A must read if you can find it.

JonClarke
2005-Feb-27, 09:40 PM
Another vote for Baxter's "Voyage" here. Greg Benford's "The Martian Race" I also found excellent. Most of the other recent efforts leave me cold.

Jon

BigJim
2005-Feb-27, 09:56 PM
I liked First Landing. Most people don't, but at least it's fairly realistic (if there was once life on Mars and a liquid water table, both of which are possiblities, than there are no real impossibilities in the story).

Jpax2003
2005-Feb-28, 04:39 AM
How about Stranger in a Strange Land and Red Planet by R.A. Heinlein?

Kaptain K
2005-Feb-28, 04:54 AM
How about Stranger in a Strange Land and Red Planet by R.A. Heinlein?
Second that ... twice!

Inferno
2005-Feb-28, 05:00 AM
How about Stranger in a Strange Land and Red Planet by R.A. Heinlein?

I HATED Stranger in a strange land. I thought it was meant to be some conroversial fly at everything you hold dear sort of story. But instead I just found it incredibly dull. Such a disappointment.

But then again, I think I'm just not a Heinlein fan. I've also read his Time Enough For Love - which was ok, but missed a real opportunity to explore human life and what it means to lead a good life, and instead just has a number of over long tangents that largely have no point. And his Moon is a Harshmistress - which I really disliked the characters, they were just too over confident. I felt no sense of suspense.

But thanks for all the other suggestions everyone. I'll put some of them on my "to read" list.

lyford
2005-Feb-28, 05:11 AM
I liked ManPlus by Pohl when I read it in high school - not sure how it will hold up now - nice to have a reason to dust off my copy and reread it!

Daffy
2005-Feb-28, 02:48 PM
Ben Bova's "Mars" and "Return to Mars" were both excellent. Fast moving with characters who had human feelings and frailties, but still actually seemed to behave like professionals; plus very plausible science.

And very interesting tie-ins with the Southwestern U.S. desert. I don't want to say more for fear of giving away the surprises.

jawajedi
2005-Feb-28, 03:04 PM
The heritage trilogy

semper mars (book 1)
luna marine (book 2)
europa strike (book 3)

by Ian Douglas

Disinfo Agent
2005-Feb-28, 03:19 PM
How about Stranger in a Strange Land and Red Planet by R.A. Heinlein?
Most of Stranger really takes place on Earth (as is the case with War of the Worlds, too), and Red Planet is a minor juvenile tale, IMHO. With that caveat, you could say that Stranger is about Mars in a broad sense...

ToSeek
2005-Feb-28, 04:04 PM
How about Stranger in a Strange Land and Red Planet by R.A. Heinlein?

I HATED Stranger in a strange land. I thought it was meant to be some conroversial fly at everything you hold dear sort of story. But instead I just found it incredibly dull. Such a disappointment.


Stranger in a Strange Land seemed very avant-garde when I first read it as a young teenager in the early seventies. Now it seems rather quaint.

darkhunter
2005-Feb-28, 08:21 PM
Mars Crossing (can't remember the author)--epedition to Mars finds that the fuel plant soft landed to produce the fuelfor their return trip has failed undectable (they check it and end up losing all their fuel). their only hope of surival is to cross many miles of Martian landscape to an ealier attempted landing where the asrtonauts died soon after landing--and hoping the ship was still able to launch....

ToSeek
2005-Feb-28, 08:51 PM
Mars Crossing (can't remember the author)

Geoffrey Landis (http://www.sff.net/people/Geoffrey.Landis/), who is actually a NASA scientist as well as a science fiction writer.

JonClarke
2005-Feb-28, 09:47 PM
It is probably useful to differentiate between novels written prior to 1965 (Mariner IV) to those afterwards. Mars changed for ever that year. Of the pre 1965 novels I will vote for "Sands of Mars" (Clarke) and "Out of the Silent Planet" (Lewis) as my favourites. Of course, of the early works, who could forget Deja Thoris, princess of Helium. She is what I call life on Mars :wink:

Of the later novels, Bova's "Mars" I really liked at first (especially the priminant and positive roles that the Russians and Chinese play, although I find it increasingly annoying with rereads (mainly the hero, who should never have got to go, a whinger with a chip on both shoulders). The sequal was worse, very disapointing, and should not have been written. Zubrin's "First Landing" is risible, IMHO. Baxter and Benford I have already covered. I really liked the role that Mars 2 played in Hartmann's "Mars Underground' (Hartmann) but the alien technology theme at the end was hackneyed. Cronin's "As it is on Mars" is the first of a series so I will have to suspend judgment until they are all out. But it was interesting and different, with a refreshing inclusion of metaphysics and spirituality.

Jon

Jon

JohnD
2005-Mar-02, 01:14 AM
All,
For the parts that concentrate on the mechanics of getting there, staying there and getting home again, "Encounter with Tiber", Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes. As Barnes 'collaborated" with Clarke on those dreadful Rama stories, I wonder what if, if Buzz had got a better writer to work with.

And here's a curiousity: "Outpost Mars". The story is almost a Western, of prairie homesteaders battling not against fire, flood and 'injuns', but against a hostile planet. There is even an honest and forthright community leader who carries the Day and wins the Girl. To be honest, the novel is not very good, either as SF or as a Western. What fascinated me was the major sub-plot, of conniving capitalists and politicians, who conspire in illicit traffic in an addictive drug, that can only be produced on Mars. That drug is called marcaine. The curiousity is that "Marcaine" is the trade name of a very widely used local anaesthetic - bupivacain.

This was one of only two books (with "Gunner Cade") by two American authors, Judith Merrill and Cyril Kornbluth, writing as "Cyril Judd". They were clearly fond of conflating names and words, from their own names for their 'nom de plume', so guessing why they chose 'marcaine' for their drug is not difficult. The first syllable, "Mar-" must be for the planet where they set their story. Addiction to cocaine and the beginnings of a criminal drug culture were of much concern to the USA of the ‘50s, so the "-caine” is for cocaine as an archetype addictive drug.


Unfortunately for parallel world or conspiracy theorists, in this "Cyril Judd" Mars marcaine is clearly an opiate, rather than a local anaesthetic. Equally unfortunately, Kornbluth died in 1958 only a few years after co-writing these stories, while Judith Merrill survived only to die in 1997. So we can’t ask them. But we can ask the originators of the real Marcaine. The drug was synthesized in the ‘60s, nearly ten years after the story was written, so “Judd” cannot have been inspired by its name, and would not have chosen the name of a real compound anyway. Could it be that the influence was the other way, that this obscure novel from an obscure branch of literature influenced the Swedish chemists in their choice of name?


Ms.J.McKenna of the AstraZeneca Customer Information Department kindly contacted her counterpart in their Swedish offices, who passed my question to Dr.Bertil Widman. Dr.Widman was one of the first experimenters with and clinical users of Marcaine at its introduction in 1963. He replied, “ I knew most of the people at Nobel Bofors-Pharma in Mölndal, Sweden who were involved in the development of Marcaine (project name LAC-43). Back then I asked the Bofors people the same question, about naming Marcaine, and they told me that the “Mar-“ prefix had no special meaning or relation to any person. Together with the marketing people the researchers tested several suggested names for one that would be easy to use in several languages, and finally found that “Marcaine” seemed to be the best, and of course all local anaesthetics should end in “-caine”.”


Of course this could be another manifestation of “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline” but that is another story, by Isaac Asimov this time.


John

endeavour
2005-Mar-02, 06:01 AM
Anyone else read A World of Difference, by alternate-history maven Harry Turtledove? Like Baxter's Voyage, it is predicated on history taking a different turn: in this case it begins with the supposition that Viking found evidence of intelligent life on Mars and goes on to recount the first expedition to the planet to make contact.

While it's not the "best book about Mars" I've ever read, the tehcnology for the human Mars mission was soundly grounded in reality and the alien culture, and how the explorers from Earth interact and interfere with it, is nicely explored.

JonClarke
2005-Mar-02, 09:47 PM
Hm, wasn't Mars in Turtledove's book a rather different and larger planet called "Athena"? An interesting idea, but I found the transferal of cold war conflict to Mars cliched and unlikely, which is why I gave up on it. But it has been a while so i could have been mistaken.

Jon

Edit: right goddess, wrong language - it was Minerva :oops:

The Curtmudgeon
2005-Mar-03, 05:22 AM
Well, I'm hopelessly an ERB fan, so Under the Moons of Mars (aka A Princess of Mars) ranks first with me. But there's also Lt. Gulliver Jones, His Vacation by Edwin Arnold, which was fun for a late-19th century (or very early 20th, I forget and don't have my copy to hand any more to check). None of this, of course, is scientifically sound at all. So sue me.

I have to relate this true story: I was in a local barbeque restaurant a few years back, and when I stepped up to the register to place my order I noticed that the young lass taking orders had "Dejah" on her name tag. I asked her, "Dejah Thoris?" and was rewarded by a huge smile and the remark that yes, her father was also a huge ERB fan and had named her after the Martian Princess; in addition, I was the only person, besides her immediate family, who had recognised (or at least commented on) the connection. I haven't been by there real recently, but the last time I was there she was still employed there. I really want to check with her about the upcoming movie version of PoM....

The (riding off on my thoat into the moonsset) Curtmudgeon

Defender
2005-Mar-03, 01:09 PM
All,
For the parts that concentrate on the mechanics of getting there, staying there and getting home again, "Encounter with Tiber", Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes. As Barnes 'collaborated" with Clarke on those dreadful Rama stories, I wonder what if, if Buzz had got a better writer to work with.



Actually, it was Gentry Lee who wrote the criminally rubbish Rama sequels. I'm not sure what else John Barnes wrote, although I feel his writing career in this country might have been set back by potential readers thinking he was the footballer John Barnes.

JonClarke
2005-Mar-03, 08:53 PM
I thought the Aldrin/Barnes novel very interesting from many perspectives.

technologically, it had space tourism led by Rutan, and foresaw the abandoning of the shuttle because of safety concerns and the return to Apollo-type technology. Politically it predicted the legistaltive difficulties of space tourism and the rise of China as a space-faring nation.

With respect to space settlement it had cyclers (of course) between earth and Mars.

The authors also had some very different and interesting aliens, ones that reached intellectual,but not sexual maturity at a very early age. They also explored the idea that any world with a biosphere was not suitable for settlement because of the toxic issues arising out of exposure to different organic chemistries.

So while not a favourite book of mine, one I would re read a hundred times (unlike Rama or the left hand of darkness), none the less a very stimulating novel.

Jon

fossilnut2
2005-Mar-11, 07:19 PM
"Ben Bova's "Mars" and "Return to Mars"

Agreed a good read. Especially the first book . Except a couple of characters are too cliche. Does every famous scientist have a beautiful , talented daughter?

I also like Burroughs 'Princess of Mars'...most of the so-called 'hard science' Mars novels actually ignore science and physics and are notorious in hiding behind gooblelygook to give the false impression that they are less fantasy than 'Princess of Mars'. How is Assimov or Clarke ignoring the physical properties of the universe (not through science but gobblelygook) less fantasy than a civil war casualty awakening on the red planet in Princess of Mars?

JonClarke
2005-Mar-11, 10:16 PM
Asimov never wrote a novel about Mars. Clarke wrote on, Mars novels ignore tThe sands of Mars. How did he ignore the physical properties of the universe as it was then known in this book?

Jon

Doodler
2005-Mar-11, 10:23 PM
"Ben Bova's "Mars" and "Return to Mars"

Agreed a good read. Especially the first book . Except a couple of characters are too cliche. Does every famous scientist have a beautiful , talented daughter?

The first book was pretty impressive, right down to the Hillary Clintonesque Vice President. The second one was a let down, seems like he allowed for a huge leap in technology from the first to the second, though the issues involved were cogent.

Gullible Jones
2005-Mar-11, 11:40 PM
I too hated Red Mars. The characters were hideous... Whereas some books have characters that are too simple, Robinson's ones were complicated to the point of bumbling, kludged stupidity. The only main character I could really identify with was Nadia - probably the only straightforward, logical, honest person in the whole damn book.

I do remember I read a short story once - I think it was called A Martian Odyssey or something like that - that I thought was pretty good... Very old, and the science was way off, but the aliens in it were very well done for that time.

ToSeek
2005-Mar-12, 01:26 AM
I too hated Red Mars. The characters were hideous... Whereas some books have characters that are too simple, Robinson's ones were complicated to the point of bumbling, kludged stupidity. The only main character I could really identify with was Nadia - probably the only straightforward, logical, honest person in the whole damn book.

I do remember I read a short story once - I think it was called A Martian Odyssey or something like that - that I thought was pretty good... Very old, and the science was way off, but the aliens in it were very well done for that time.

Stanley Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey" was voted the second-best science fiction short story some years ago, behind only Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall."

Gullible Jones
2005-Mar-12, 04:30 AM
Nightfall... Now that was a good one. 8)

nomuse
2005-Mar-12, 07:25 AM
Surprised no-one has mentioned blue-collar god Allen Steele's Mars novel -- considering it concerns the Face. (Title escapes me at moment and I'm too sleepy to Google it).

I have a back issue of the SFWA Bulletin in which a link to a resource about Mars is prefaced "For all of you who haven't written your Mars trilogy yet...."

Paul Beardsley
2005-Mar-13, 07:01 PM
Replying to several posts:

AFAIK Asimov never wrote a Mars novel but he did write a novella, called The Martian Way.

Weinbaum's A Martian Odyssey was followed by a short sequel, which saw the further adventures of the same crew, and a second meeting with Tweel. I can't remember the title but I think it had the word "valley" in it.

Stephen Baxter's Voyage was adapted as a five-part radio play. I recommend it very strongly. He also wrote a story in which it was revealed that Jules Verne's From The Earth To The Moon was loosely based on real events (with a multi-stage cannon so that the occupants of the Columbiad wouldn't be crushed by the acceleration). The cannon was used to launch an intrepid pioneer to Mars... but when he got close to his destination, he discovered it was Mars as we know it (freezing cold, no air etc) and so he was doomed. This story tied in with Baxter's article exhorting authors to deal with the real Mars rather than the retro-SF Marses that some authors were writing about at the time. Retro-SF, according to Baxter, is doing Mars a disservice.

I rather like pre-Mariner Marses, and I can see the temptation to write about them now, but I suppose it is lazy nostalgia, and should be left to the authors actually writing during the pre-Mariner era. Of those, I am especially fond of Leigh Brackett. She was responsible for the IMO best of the Star Wars movies (Empire Strikes Back). She also wrote a great many stories set on a consistently-realised Mars. Her style is an unusual mix of the lyrical and the hard-boiled. (Her first movie was the best-known adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep.) So you get ancient spired cities in the middle of Martian deserts, visited by a hero who makes Conan the Barbarian look like a softie.

If you like ERB, but haven't heard of Leigh Brackett, give her a try. Her prose is much, much better than that of Burroughs, and her stories don't have as many coincidences.

Gullible Jones
2005-Mar-14, 01:18 AM
Argh... Can't believe I forgot The Martian Way. Now that was a cool story.

JHotz
2005-Mar-14, 05:44 AM
Greg Bears Moving Mars

ChesleyFan
2005-Mar-17, 05:11 AM
For the parts that concentrate on the mechanics of getting there, staying there and getting home again, "Encounter with Tiber", Buzz Aldrin and John Barnes. As Barnes 'collaborated" with Clarke on those dreadful Rama stories, I wonder what if, if Buzz had got a better writer to work with.

Actually, Lee Gentry collaborated with Clarke on the stories, IIRC.

JohnD
2005-Mar-18, 01:42 PM
Chesley,
Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!

But Defender spotted my mistake two weeks ago - don't rub it in!

John