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Mars, Inc.: The Billionaire's Club

by Ben Bova

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766316,050 (2.9)7
"How do you get to the Red Planet? Not via a benighted government program trapped in red tape. Art Thrasher knows this. He is a man with a driving vision: send humans to Mars. Thrasher has a plan. Form a 'club' of billionaires to chip in one billion a year until the dream is accomplished. A billionaire himself and the president of a successful company, it will take all his wiles and master manipulator of business and capital to overcome setbacks and sabotage--and get a rocket full of scientists, engineers, visionaries and dreamers on their way to the Red Planet"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Poor. It has the same feel as some of his earlier (better) books, like Privateers, but it's trying too hard, and lacking in the drama, details and characterization.

Art is a start-up entrepreneur, successful, but only in the few millions range. He promised his dearly missed and departed dad that he'd do something worthwhile ot feel proud of, rather than just grubbing for money. Art decides that what he needs to do this is send people to Mars, in memory of his father's astrophysics background. Sadly even just preliminary research indicates that the budget for this is somewhat out of his reach - in the tens of billions. However he does know some people significantly richer than he is, and while they're not always on the best of terms, he thinks he can convince them to donate. All the rest of his time he seems to spend sleeping with (or attempting to) various pretty women that he encounters. Maybe beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it seems more likely to be clumsy writing, that he doesn't encounter anyone of even average attractiveness, anywhere, not in the media, scientists, engineers, astronauts et all. Every single women is beautiful and attractive. The sole saving grace is that a couple of them turn him down.

I'm sure there's the rest of the series, furthering the developments on Mars, but unless the Bova picks up his game again, I'm not going to read them. ( )
1 vote reading_fox | Jan 28, 2017 |
Mr. Bova has been poorly served by his publisher this time. The e-book is overpriced and the editing is much worse than any self-respecting self-published author would permit. It is full of typos and missing words that interrupt the flow. The story, however, is “ripped from the headlines” and just what any sci-fi fan wants to hear; humanity is going to Mars whether our incompetent government cares or not. ( )
  drardavis | Mar 25, 2015 |
Trust the entrepreneurs to get us there

Mars, Inc.: The Billionaire’s Club by Ben Bova (Baen, $25).

Richard Branson probably owes a debt of gratitude to science fiction legend Ben Bova for this outline of how space exploration could be run as a billionaire boys’ club—and the “boys” in that is literal.

Bova has envisioned a scenario in which space exploration has ceased to be the interest of governments and is instead run—for-profit—by a group of wealthy capitalists. It’s a libertarian’s space-dream come true, especially if that libertarian is a straight white guy.

Readers who hope for a more progressive expansion into space—in short, those of us who aren’t straight white guys that are or hope to become rich—may be less enthused. The protagonist, Art Thrasher, is a billionaire himself, and he lines up like-minded fellows to fund Mars missions, not simply for exploration and study, but as a business proposition.

Don’t get me started on the casual reference to a black woman as a “two-fer.”

I’ve read very little of Bova’s work—despite his reputation—because it always seems more concerned with nuts and bolts. This is, frankly, a very straight-forward nuts-and-bolts plan for exploring Mars with venture capital.

What it’s not is visionary, either in its plan for the red planet, or in its attitude about humanity.

Published on Lit/Rant on 2/1/2014: http://litrant.tumblr.com/post/75246063354/trust-the-entrepreneurs-to-get-us-the...) ( )
  KelMunger | Mar 10, 2014 |
My full Mars, Inc., The Billionaire’s Club review can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

For those of you that are into science fiction stories where 95% of it is the workings of the corporate world and all the bureaucracy that is involved to get anything done, then this is the audiobook for you. If your not into that, like I am not, you may not enjoy Mars, Inc the way I would think Bova indented. While this is an epic story of one man who has a dream and figures out how to make it happen, there was no climax or satisfaction or payoff in the end. While this will not turn my completely off of Bova’s other works it will make me consider it carefully if I want to listen to something that I am positively sure I will get sucked into or take a chance with something unfulfilling. But here is where, for me, Bova shined, the ridiculously complex characters and their interactions. That alone might be the straw that makes me jump on board with another journey. Bottom line is Mars, Inc was a bit on the dry side, allowing my mind to wonder while listening, yet engaging enough that it was pleasurable in the end. ( )
  audiobibliophile | Jan 16, 2014 |
Mars, Inc (subtitle: The Billionaire's Club) by Ben Bova is a new standalone novel not set in the same universe as his Grand Tour solar system books. There were a few confusing moments where I wasn't sure about the universe, particularly as someone called Yamagata showed up and didn't do anything that went against the Yamagata in the Grand Tour books. But maybe it was an homage. Or something. Blurb:

How do you get to the Red Planet? Not via a benighted government program trapped in red tape and bound by budget constrictions, that’s for sure. No, what it will take is a helping of adventure, science, corporate powerplays, a generous dollop of seduction—both in and out of the boardroom—and money, money, money!

Art Thrasher knows this. He is a man with a driving vision: send humans to Mars. The government has utterly failed, but Thrasher has got the plan to accomplish such a feat: form a “club” or billionaires to chip in one billion a year until the dream is accomplished. But these are men and women who are tough cookies, addicted to a profitable bottom-line, and disdainful of pie-in-the-sky dreamers who want to use their cash to make somebody else’s dreams come true.

But Thrasher is different from the other dreamers in an important regard: he’s a billionaire himself, and the president of a successful company. But it’s going to take all his wiles as a captain of industry and master manipulator of business and capital to overcome setbacks and sabotage—and get a rocket full of scientist, engineers, visionaries, and dreamers on their way to the Red Planet.


I had previously only read Grand Tour books by Bova and I was hoping that Mars, Inc would be as sciencey as some of those were, particularly the Mars trilogy, which I enjoyed. Alas, it was not to be. It's not that the science in Mars, Inc is soft, but it's not a book about science or scientists. It's a book about a businessman. It's a how-to guide for funding and organising a crewed mission to Mars. I am firmly of the opinion that science is significantly more interesting than business, so I can't say I found this an overly interesting read. It wasn't boring enough for me to stop reading, but still, fans of science fiction beware.

Being a book primarily about rich businessmen, it is heavily populated by old white guys and packed full of much of the unpleasantness that entails. And why couldn't there have been even one female billionaire in the mix? Oh, that's right, women can only be secretaries and journalists. It's a very sexist book, with references to tokenism sprinkled throughout. Calling a black woman a "two-for" (or however it was spelled) and a "dark-skinned Latina" a three in one is distinctly not cool. I could almost have forgiven it if it was clear that the characters were the ones being dicks, but there was too much of that sort of thing in the narration (as in, the parts not clearly in Thrasher's head). There was no need, for example, to point out that in a meeting with the US President and others, the President's secretary was the only woman in the room. Obviously it wasn't necessary to set the scene up that way in the first place, but pointing it out did not help. Far too often the (very minority) presence of women is pointed out in a self-congratulatory way by the characters. They "even" have two female astronauts (out of seven). Someone give them a medal.

(Also aren't secretaries in the sense of assistants and organisers usually called PAs or EAs these days? They certainly are in Australia.)

Thrasher is a "reprobate", which is the euphemism of choice for sleaze in Mars, Inc. There is a supposedly wholesome romantic relationship "developing" throughout the book but I found it nauseating, especially when it was the female character hero-worshipping him for no clear reason, before he'd even begun to think of her as an option. (And then he keeps calling her "kid" even after they get together? Ewww.)

There are a lot more instances of rankling sexism, but it's been a few days since I finished reading (I kept using jetlag as an excuse to put off writing this review) and the reading was done on Kobo which doesn't lend itself to easy highlighting. Suffices to say, what I've mentioned in this review is not at all exhaustive.

It's not that I didn't have previous evidence of Bova writing sexist stuff, but I had the futile hope that, since not all of his other books (that I've read) were that bad, maybe this wouldn't be either. (I mean, Saturn and Titan made me a lot angrier than the other Mars books, for example.) I was wrong. The Old White Man aspect of the plot didn't help either.

Rampant sexism aside, the plot was fairly readable, despite being about businessmen rather than scientists. There's an organisational aspect and the quest for funding, there's a bit of intrigue thrown in, there are Thrasher's personal issues with which woman he wants to sleep with which night, there's a side story about rocket powered commercial flight... (the latter being driven by Thrasher's desire to not spend too much time flying between cities, a sentiment I found myself sympathising with deeply as I sat in a jet and crossed threeish continents.) Plotwise there's a lot going on, enough to offset the fact that it's not science-based SF. It's the variety of the plot that stopped me throwing the Kobo aside in frustration. Well, that and the fact that most of the ARCs I actually wanted to read were PDFs and those don't Kobo well.

If you've gotten this far through the review, you'll have gathered that I didn't enjoy Mars, Inc. Because of the problems with it, I feel I can only recommend it to readers interested in a how-to guide for getting to Mars in the near future. Although I've said it's low on science, what science there is is accurately described. I don't think I'll be picking up any more Ben Bova books, and certainly not in the near future.

You can read more of my reviews on my blog. ( )
2 vote Tsana | Dec 23, 2013 |
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"How do you get to the Red Planet? Not via a benighted government program trapped in red tape. Art Thrasher knows this. He is a man with a driving vision: send humans to Mars. Thrasher has a plan. Form a 'club' of billionaires to chip in one billion a year until the dream is accomplished. A billionaire himself and the president of a successful company, it will take all his wiles and master manipulator of business and capital to overcome setbacks and sabotage--and get a rocket full of scientists, engineers, visionaries and dreamers on their way to the Red Planet"--

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