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3 Ratings: 3.7
A book by Ben Bova

YA-- Jamie Waterman, a Native American geologist, is chosen at the last minute for the first manned exploration of the planet Mars. On touchdown, he is so overwhelmed with the emotion of the moment that he utters a Navajo phrase instead of the political … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Book, Science Fiction, Series, Grand Tour Of The Universe, Internplanetary Travel
Author: Ben Bova
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
1 review about Mars

A realistic vision of the first manned mission to Mars

  • Aug 21, 2010
  • by
The theme of "Mars", Ben Bova's extraordinary vision of a first manned expedition to Earth's planetary neighbour, is hardly unique and imaginative. In fact, it's been pounded into submission on hundreds of previous occasions. Bova succeeds nonetheless and has served up a particularly compelling and realistic entry into the pantheon of space exploration sci-fi that unflinchingly explores the politics, the psychology, the emotion and humanity as well as the danger and excitement of an extended exploratory space mission that would in fact last almost two years. A healthy serving of science and day to day scientific realism rounds out this exciting and eminently readable story of a group of planetary explorers that are ultimately shown to have "the right stuff".

Nominally the hero of the tale, Jamie Waterman is a Navajo geologist selected to be part of the multi-national scientific ground team that will explore the red planet. The story opens as Jamie steps onto the surface of Mars and, overwhelmed with the power and emotion of the moment, he utters his first words to a waiting populace on Earth in Navajo instead of the carefully scripted English he was supposed to use. The resulting political firestorm that erupts on Earth is somehow sadly predictable in its powerful and dramatic realism.

Told primarily from Jamie's perspective, the main plot line unfolds around a debilitating and almost certainly fatal illness that every single member of the ground crew except the doctor contracts. While the forensic medical investigation into the illness is told with an urgent drama that will have every reader on the edge of their seat right to the literally cliff-hanging climax, it's the ultimate discovery of its cause that will leave readers slack-jawed with amazement at Bova's brilliant imagination and the almost absurdly humourous irony of the problem.

The Iron Curtain and the US-Russian Cold War are now relegated to the pages of history so the political structures and international rivalries portrayed in the story clearly date the writing of "Mars" to the latter part of the 20th century. But that takes nothing at all away from Bova's masterful development of full, complex characters whose well-being and success will matter to the readers. What more could a happy science fiction fan ask for - characters, plot and a heaping plate full of informative, entertaining and realistic science!

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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August 23, 2010
I got this a while ago but never read it. I did read Kim Stanley Robinson's "Red Mars," which I thought started off very well (the later books were alright, but sometimes out in the deep end). How does Ben Bova's book compare?
August 23, 2010
Good question! I've got KSR's series on my shelf but I haven't read it yet so I couldn't comment. I'll let you know though as soon as I've read it.
August 22, 2010
Hmm, gives me an idea for a red planet badge for reviews of Mars novels.
August 22, 2010
I think that's a great idea!
November 24, 2010
Got it. Thanks.
August 21, 2010
Well done, Paul.
August 23, 2010
Thanks, Linda.
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