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The Martian Race by Gregory Benford

The Martian Race (1999)

by Gregory Benford

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Martian Race (1)

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497531,587 (3.53)7



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Showing 5 of 5
Fiction about Mars is one of my favorite sub-genres. This example can be a little slow-moving at times, but the description of life found on Mars more than makes up for any other shortcomings. However, this is not your typical alien life and first contact story.

Two private consortiums vie to become the first to send a mission to Mars and have it return with in-depth scientific reports along with samples of rocks and any other interesting artifacts. The winning group receives a prize of $30 billion, most of which will be needed to reimburse expenses incurred. But the winner will also have ownership of the science, the all-important prize.

The main character is a biologist, Julia, whose husband is the pilot of the first team to leave Earth. There is also a geologist and an engineer on board. They land safely but face the immediate problem that the vehicle in which they are to return in a year and a half has been damaged. While they all spend time helping the engineer with that, the geologist and biologist work on their assigned experiments. Meanwhile, the second team leaves Earth using a different propulsion system and arrives while repairs are still being made on the first group's return vehicle. So, let's just say some organizational rivalry and not very pleasant backroom dealing go on, on both Earth and Mars.

But while this is going on, the two scientists have made an astounding discovery: anaerobic life (i.e., life that is not dependent on oxygen) living in still-active volcanic vents. This ups the stakes for the two consortiums, but the big plus for the reader is the analysis of why it's there, how far it extends, and how it's survived as it has (some of the lifeforms even have eyes, or, at least, light receptors, so for some reason they haven't lost the need for them over the millions of years since there was surface water and life on the surface was possible.

I'd recommend this to anyone with an interest in Mars or in the variety if life possible in the universe. The scientific explanations for what's found, and the ethical questions raised, make this a refreshing and thought-provoking novel for a species that dreams of leaving its home planet. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Nov 18, 2016 |
Very similar to, but published years before, Weir's The Martian. This is the story of the first expedition to Mars, the challenges to surviving there for a year, and the search for life. This is hard SF, a few years in the future, in the vein of Robinson's Martian trilogy, but much faster paced, told from the viewpoint of the female biologist on the team.

Those are the good points. The bad side is the plot involving the Earth-side contest, i.e., race, to get to Mars and back, that funds this expedition. Presumably modeled on the X Prize competition, the premise is that our heroes not only have to get to Mars first, but do real science, and then get back before a rival group from AirBus does. There's much debating about what would satisfy the arbitrary rules of this contest. I don't know whether Benford feels this is the most likely means of actually funding a Mars expedition, or just used it to generate additional tension. Either way, I found this whole element -unconvincing and annoying.

Recommended for the 75% of the story about the trip to and survival on Mars. Solid hard SF. ( )
1 vote ChrisRiesbeck | Sep 8, 2016 |
The Martian Race tells the story of the first manned mission to Mars.

It is a light read and an interesting look at how such a mission might proceed. The storytelling is fairly straightforward. There's no contrived drama the way there is in many books of this type. The characters get along and do their jobs about as well as could be expected and there's no grandstanding and no 'nefarious dealings'. This made quite a pleasant change - I kept waiting for one of the characters to do something essentially out of character just to "add drama" but it didn't happen.

This book doesn't provide the detail that a book like Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars does - but is an easier read for that.

One aspect of the book that amused and rang very true was that the mission was funded by a private consortium rather than NASA. The astronauts became, by necessity, media stars - and sponsorship deals were everything. Picture Astronauts taking that first historic step onto mars, then holding up a Mars Bar for the cameras. ( )
1 vote Sassm | Jan 14, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gregory Benfordprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gambino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Youll, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To an idea and those who pursue it:
Mars in our time
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"Welcome back to Mars!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0446608904, Mass Market Paperback)

Esteemed Mars guru Bob Zubrin calls The Martian Race "one of the finest novels about human exploration of the Red Planet ever written. "But then again, Bob is a character in the book (albeit in the briefest of cameos), so what else could he possibly say? That notwithstanding, Zubrin's right--he couldn't have picked a better book to show his face in. By popular assent, Martian Race deserves top honors among the millennial wave of Mars exploration tales, propelled as it is by the skillful storytelling of physics doyen Gregory Benford, a Campbell and two-time Nebula winner.

Martian Race is near-future SF, set in the twenty-teens (just before Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars saga kicks off), which may contribute to its being a bit of a slow starter; this is realistic, nuts-and-bolts speculation on a mission using pretty basic technology. But the pace picks up considerably as our heroes--the likable Julia and her Russky hubby Viktor and crew, backed by the Mars Consortium and its biotech billionaire CEO John Axelrod--begin to duke it out with a Euro-Sino concern to claim the $30 billion Mars Prize and, of course, get back from the Red Planet in one piece. Benford's work throughout is engaging and thorough, exploring every aspect of why we should make this trip at all (and even a few arguments against it, like Mars Bar marketing tie-ins). --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

From the Nebula Award-winning author of Timescape and Foundation's Fear comes a hard-science thriller about the race to Mars.When an explosion of the rocket launching the Mars Transit Vehicle kills four crewmen, the US decides to redirect its energies to near-Earth projects, killing the manned mission to Mars. But tycoon John Axelrod assembles a consortium to fund the project, and he expects to net billions. But a European-Asian airbus will make a similar expedition. Now, the race is on to get to the Red Planet first.

» see all 3 descriptions

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