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Desolation road by Ian McDonald
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Desolation road (original 1988; edition 1988)

by Ian McDonald

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5902516,673 (3.79)77
Member:AlanPoulter
Title:Desolation road
Authors:Ian McDonald
Info:Toronto ; New York ; Bantam, 1988.
Collections:Your library
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Tags:science fiction

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Desolation Road by Ian McDonald (1988)

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Desolation Road by Ian McDonald follows thirty years in the lives of the citizens from one small town in Mars. This is a future Mars, after Mars has undergone terraforming to prepare it for human habitation. The town of Desolation Road, a remote oasis in the desert, was founded by Dr. Alimantando when he was following a green person across the desert. At the beginning we meet the characters in short chapters as each new town person stumbles into Desolation Road, a town that should not exist, and then follow the pivotal roles each person plays in the destiny of the town and the Martian civilization. And, while all the characters are quite interesting, not all of them are sympathetic.


Desolation Road was originally published in 1988 and then re-released for a new audience in 2009. Several reviewers have pointed out that McDonald is the first writer to successfully apply elements of magical realism to science fiction. In many ways this gives the novel almost the feel of a folktale, but at other times it had the feel of a western. Basically, this is a difficult novel to describe. Really, read the description - we go from Adam Black's Wonderful Travelling Chautauqua and Educational 'Stravaganza to the Babooshka who just wants her own child-grown in a fruit jar to the Gallacelli brothers, identical triplets who fell in love with and married the same woman. In some ways it is almost a collection of short stories based on the town but in the end it does pull itself together for a very complete novel.


I also need to note that McDonald's characters follow a Martian year for their ages, but that is never explained. (A Martian year is almost twice as long as Earth's year, so , when a 9 or 11 year old is having adult experiences it might be good to note that they are, in fact, adults. There was one drawback to this newer edition - the proof reading is lacking

McDonald has a way with words that I really appreciated so it made reading Desolation Road a pleasure.
Obviously, as seen from the description, I think it should also be clear that it is at times quite funny. For example, this is the reason for the name of the town:
"Desolation Road," he slurred, drinking down the final glass of peapod wine. "You are Desolation Road. And Desolation Road it remained, even though Dr. Alimantando realized when he sobered up that he had not meant Desolation Road at all, but Destination Road. pg. 18

Highly Recommended; http://shetreadssoftly.blogspot.com/
( )
1 vote SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Didn't like it AT ALL.
It's sort of like, "What if Tom Robbins tried to write The Martian Chronicles?"
Well, if you think that sounds good, you might like this book. But I didn't.
It's the story of a small town formed 'by accident' 100 years after the colonization of Mars. It focuses on different characters and events in the town's short history.
But it was really barely a sci-fi novel. This is to sci-fi as the The Flintstones is to Clan of the Cave Bear.
The narrative was all over the place, being intentionally absurdist, trying to be funny, and also trying to make some kind of non-SF social commentary, jamming politics in there - I don't even really know what the author was trying to do.
But I didn't like it. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
One should never go to a closing down sale at a book store. The temptations are too great.
  Greymowser | Jan 23, 2016 |
An amazingly assured first novel. I've noticed that other online reviews see their favorite "odd" author in this novel, e.g., Jack Vance. For me, the strongest echoes were of R A Lafferty and Bradbury. But unlike Lafferty, who could never quite make the novel form work, or Bradbury, whose Martian Chronicles was clearly no coherent narrative, McDonald is able to weave this collection of tall tales into a cohesive whole. This is a Mars supposedly terraformed to its current livable state, but that's just to make it seem like SF. People travel by railroad or old planes, the traveling side show comes to town periodically, etc. All important points in time have a repeating form, e.g., 12 minutes of 12, 6 minutes of 6, and so on. The stories tell of the founding, growth, heyday, and eventual downfall of the town of Desolation Road. I was concerned in the first chapter that archness and distance would make the book a hard slog, but either I or the author learned better. The weakest section for me was the new SF space opera style war that occupies most of the final fifth of the book. Tachyonic beams, giant robots, people never just killed but blown into bloody smears, deaths by the 100's of thousands -- all overkill, literally and figuratively. Fortunately the book's denouement recovers nicely. Recommended. ( )
2 vote ChrisRiesbeck | Nov 2, 2015 |
Sometimes I have to be dragged along, semi-reluctantly, through imaginative science fiction. I say imaginative, because this is a 'verse where anything (really!) is possible if you want it badly enough. Do machines become human? Or do humans become machines? See how your view of it changes as you switch the words around? That sort of playfulness is the underpinning of [Desolation Road]. It is a place that comes into being . . . because . . . it has to, it was one of many possibilities on the time line, but more than that. Did I say it is set on a terraformed Mars? Just a couple of hundred (double our time) years old. During a fifteen year (Mars time) the town of Desolation, founded by one Dr. Alimantado by accident, comes to be. Families arrive, things happen, people leave, and a destiny grinds along. It's not 'easy' sf, it's simultaneously rather silly at times and full of serious ideas. Not for the inexperienced sf reader. There are other McDonald's that are far easier. **** ( )
  sibyx | Jun 10, 2015 |
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Within the covers of the book, one finds love and hate, romance and betrayal, rationalism and mysticism. And through it all, the sense of how a place, a real, authentic place, can shape peoples’ lives. For, even when characters leave Desolation Road, they do not escape the town’s influence.
 
Desolation Road ... surprises, delights, then surprises and delights again. Spanning centuries, the book includes transcendent math, alternate realities, corporate dystopias, travelling carnivals, post-singularity godlike AIs, geoengineering, and mechanical hobos, each integral to the plot.
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ian McDonaldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cooke, Jacqueline NassoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edwards, LesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kubiak, MichaelÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lofaro, JerryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sigaud, BernardTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To all the numerous people who helped raise Desolation Road from the dust, and especially to Patricia- architect, constant supporter, and First Lady of the town.
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For three days Dr. Alimantando had followed the greenperson across the desert.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Relates the history of a bizarre little town on the edge of the Martian desert over the course of its thirty-year existence.

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