Tag Archives: Mars

Can’t-Wait Wednesday – 27th June, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #Can’t-WaitWednesday

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40276268 – vintage old pocket watch and book

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the fabulous Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s Can’t Wait offering – Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

#science fiction

Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.

I really like the sound of this one. I really enjoyed The Beautiful Ones – see my review here – this author really knows how to tell a tale, so discovering that she had written a science fiction adventure had me immediately requesting this one.

Friday Faceoff – Any planet is ‘Earth’ to those who live on it…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is planets, so I’ve chosen The Empress of Mars by the wonderfully talented Kage Baker.

 

This is the cover produced by Tor in May 2009. I like this one – the depiction of the half-terraformed planet is vividly portrayed without any undue clutter or blurb, which makes this one very effective.

 

This Italian edition, produced in October 2007 by Delos Books is more static with the red desert landscape featuring, rather than showing any of the feisty characters that ping off the page. I don’t feel this cover does the book justice, but neither is it an egregious travesty either.

 

Published in December 2008 by Subterranean Press, this cover is less about the Mars environment and more about the characters. It tends to have a sense of fantasy about it, which isn’t quite right. That said, it is eye-catching and effective and anything that encourages a reader to pick one of Baker’s books off the shelf is to be encouraged.

 

This cover, produced by in 2003 by Night Shade Books, once again features a Martian landscape. This depiction certainly looks very like a lot of the images we have seen of Mars, especially the pink-tinged sky and rather foreshortened horizon. I particularly like the font on this one. As for my favourite? This week I simply cannot decide. What about you – do you have a preference?

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of KINDLE Ebook Martians Aboard by Carrie Vaughn

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I picked this one up from my NetGalley arcs, hoping to get slightly ahead during the holiday period, rather than wanting to start the year with an engrossing book, so it was a lovely surprise when this YA science fiction offering turned out to be such fun.

martiansabroadPolly Newton has one single-minded dream, to be a starship pilot and travel the galaxy. Her mother, the director of the Mars Colony, derails Polly’s plans when she sends Polly and her genius twin brother, Charles, to Galileo Academy on Earth—the one planet Polly has no desire to visit. Ever. Homesick and cut off from her desired future, Polly cannot seem to fit into the constraints of life on Earth, unlike Charles, who deftly manoeuvers around people and sees through their behavior to their true motives. Strange, unexplained, dangerous coincidences centered on their high-profile classmates begin piling up. Charles may be right—there’s more going on than would appear, and the stakes are high. With the help of Charles, Polly is determined to find the truth, no matter the cost.

This entertaining book contains many elements familiar to YA fans, such as teenage protagonists, a school setting and the difficulties of establishing friendships in a potentially hostile, dangerous environment. The enjoyable twist Vaughn adds is that Polly and Charles are Martians, born and bred. So they struggle in Earth’s heavier gravity, immediately standing out as they are paler skinned, taller and thinner than Earth-born children. I loved seeing our home planet through Polly’s jaundiced eyes. She is horrified at the amount of life heaving in the soil and infesting all the plants and shocked at how profligate Earth inhabitants are with water and air. I loved reading of her struggle to cope on her first foray outside in a world without a protective dome. These details of scene setting that ordinarily are taken in alongside the story became a joy to read, along with Polly’s unenthusiastic take on her fellow students.

She is also chafing at the tightly controlled school regime, though her boredom is increasingly alleviated by the steady trickle of disturbing incidents that start to stack up. I also enjoyed her squabbles with her insufferably smug and clever brother, Charles. While he does look out for her, he’d rather rip his tongue out by the roots than admit it – typical teenage brother, in other words. The spiky relationship between the siblings feels pleasingly realistic and nicely unsentimental.

This one proved very difficult to put down as the tension rapidly increased and I found myself engrossed in Polly’s world, trying to work out what was going on. The denouement was a surprise, though it did make sense and I came to the end of the book far sooner than I wanted. More please, Carrie Vaughn!

And if you are a fan of Janet Edwards’ Earthgirl series, then take a look at this book which I recommend. Receiving a copy of Martians Abroad from the publisher via NetGalley has in no way affected my honest opinion of this book.
9/10

Review of The Long Mars – Book 3 of The Long Earth series by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

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I’ve enjoyed this intriguing series so far – read my review of the first book, The Long Earth here. The premise is that humanity has learnt to step across to parallel Earths that exist in an infinite series of universes that stretch away from Datum Earth. Would this third adventure be as engrossing?

thelongmarsThe Long Earth is in chaos. The cataclysmic aftermath of the Yellowstone eruption is shutting civilization down. As populations flee to the relative safety of stepwise Earths, Sally Linsay, Joshua Valienté and Lobsang do what they can to assist in the perilous clean-up. But Joshua is called to a crisis close to home: a newly emergent breed of young, super-bright post-humans threatens the status quo of ‘normal’ human society and violent confrontation seems inevitable. And now Sally has been contacted by her long-vanished father, Willis Linsay – the maverick inventor of the original Stepper device. His is planning a fantastic voyage and wants her to join him, but what is his true motivation?

If you haven’t yet encountered The Long Earth series, my advice is not to start with this book, which plunges you right into the Yellowstone eruption, with only the sketchiest introduction to the main characters. It took me several pages to get back into the groove, and I’ve read the previous two books fairly recently.

This whole series has an old-fashioned feel – lighter on indepth characterisation and focussing more on the consequences and descriptions of the varying landscapes and exotic lifeforms. Because the premise is so fascinating and well written, I don’t find this as annoying as I usually do. Of course it doesn’t hurt that both authors are experienced and extremely talented.

The devastating consequences of the Yellowstone eruption around the world makes for riveting reading, but for me, the highlight of this book is the exploration of Mars. There are universes where Earth has been wiped out and in the nearest one to Datum Earth, a space station has been built in readiness for exploring Mars. Because in this universe, Mars is not the sterile, dead planet we know. This particular Mars has an atmosphere, water and vegetation. This particular Mars is – literally – a stepping-off point to explore the other versions of the Red Planet. I found this sub-plot utterly engrossing, packed with wonderful imaginative touches and an enjoyably surprising conclusion.

Another main thread is the rise of The Next – a group of super-intelligent children who are descended from the inhabitants of Happy Landings. This poses all sorts of major moral questions, which is often what really good science fiction excels at. It provides us with an arena where we can explore and debate likely consequences and how society should respond – both for good and ill.

If you have ever seriously considered how humanity impacts upon our home planet, then go looking for the first book in this quality series.
9/10

Review of The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

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Your gaze rests lovingly on your battered copy of Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, wondering why no one writes like that anymore… Well, I’ve uncovered another gem in the same mould, folks. Based on Baker’s Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, this is space opera at its rollicking best. While still set in Baker’s world of The Company – her series about time-travelling immortals plundering Earth’s history – it is entirely stand-alone to the extent that you don’t need to be aware Baker has written anything else, in order to appreciate the story.

empressofmarsWhen the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the gruelling task of terraforming the cold red planet—only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn’t turn a profit on Mars.

This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters who opened the only joint selling alcohol on the Tharsis Bulge. As such, she and her bar, The Empress of Mars, are the beating heart of the bereft colony of eccentrics struggling to survive in the face of BAC’s corporate indifference. However, that indifference switches to something more threatening when an unexpected discovery suddenly makes Mars more important in the scheme of things…

A classic frontier tale of rugged individualistic grit pitted against shadowy religious and corporate ambition, Baker is very upfront about the influence of the Wild West in this book. This emphasis on the individual allows Baker free rein in her depiction of the gloriously mapcap characters peopling Mars as the plot weaves through a series of hurdles that Mary and her family have to scramble under and over. The characters leap off the page as the action sweeps them through edgy tense drama to humorous interludes verging on farce – classic Baker, in other words.

The setting is wonderfully realised. Mary’s bar… the Celtic settlement… the bleak red Martian landscape… without holding up the action, Baker has managed to make Mars and the Martian environment pivotal to the whole story – an element often missing in modern space opera. With their current obsession for character-driven plots and plenty of snappy dialogue, many modern writers treat their uniquely different science fiction settings with nonchalant carelessness. However, Baker never lets you forget that this is Mars – an untamed planet right on the edge of viability for human habitation.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable, well-crafted offering by a scandalously underrated writer, who tragically died at the beginning of last year after a brave battle with cancer. I’ve been banging on about her Company novels ever since I accidentally stumbled across them a couple of years ago. Give yourself a treat, track down this book – and you’ll see why…
10/10