Friday, 16 January 2009


The recent discovery of methane on Mars put me in mind of the novel 'The Martian Race' by Gregory Benford which is set in 2015 when the US government has abandoned the space programme when one of its rockets explodes killing all on board.

A $30 billion Mars prize is offered and a private consortium is formed to get to the planet and of course there also appears a rival group who aim to get there and back sooner and collect the prize.

The opening chapters where it is setting up the history I found a bit predictable and was considering not going any further but I am glad I persevered as once we get to the planet the book 'takes off'. Not to give too much away but things do not go smoothly, they discover something they name 'marsmat' which may be something more than it appears. The will they, wont they get off, who will survive and the resolution is effective, as well as the mysteries on the planet left a lot of questions to be answered. (There is a new release following the story of astronauts Viktor & Julia called 'The Sunborn' but don't know much about it yet).

The book raises the question of whether the exploration of the red planet will be a race for money or a hope of co-operation in space. Wonder which one will happen. I suppose we all live in hope that we do better in space than we have on this planet. I depends on whether I am having a pessimistic or optimistic day on what I think.

I loved Benford's descriptions of Mars and a lot of what he was writing about, in this 1999 novel, NASA have recently discovered (toxicity of soil etc). Of course he is an astrophysicist and a Professor of Physics with an imagination so I will have to keep reading.

Verdict: Ripping Yarn

Link to Gregory Benford's website here contains info on his fiction and non-fiction.

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