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The discovery of life on Mars

  • Jun 1, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4
Navajo geologist-astronaut, Jamie Waterman, blasts off to the red planet for a second time as the leader of a privately funded follow up expedition to the earth's first foray to Mars which ended on a literal cliff-hanger. the discovery of pueblo-like cliff dwellings that seemed to indicate Mars had been inhabited in the past by intelligent life.

The crew, an eclectic blend of nationalities and experts in a variety of scientific and technical fields of endeavour, direct their efforts to the completion of three distinct projects - the examination of the lichen type biology and the geology of the caldera of Olympus Mons, a volcano and the highest mountain in the solar system; the recovery of a priceless artifact from the much earlier Mars Pathfinder expeditions; and the detailed investigation of Jamie's pueblo dwellings with a view to proving once and for all whether Mars had ever been home to an intelligent species of life.

Aside from the hard sci-fi themes of the Martian environment, the research, the overwhelming dangers and difficulties of extraterrestrial exploration in a fundamentally hostile environment, "Return to Mars" also examines two other central themes - first, the almost insurmountable difficulties of the costs of big budget science and the conflicts that inevitably arise when capitalism attempts to force fundamental research into profit-oriented motives; and, second, the inherent dangers of contaminating a pristine environment such as Mars with untrammeled, loosely controlled exploration, travel, business and (gasp!) even colonization or, worse yet, tourism!

Certainly, Bova was not shy about using "Return to Mars" as a forum for espousing his own political views on the matter and, for some readers, the strength of the expression of these opinions was seen as a shortcoming in the novel. But, I felt that using Jamie, in particular, a highly educated scientist with an underlying aboriginal Navajo cultural mindset, as the fundamental mouthpiece for these opinions, the left-leaning political statements seemed to come across as heartfelt and completely natural. While some readers might disagree with some of what Jamie had to say, it seemed completely reasonable to hear him and the other scientists express these views. Their disgust and complete antipathy to the notion of tourism directed at the Martian cliff-dwellings was particularly understandable in the context in which it was presented.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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Quick Tip by . September 29, 2010
I liked this book, but not as much as Mars. Rather dramatic ending, though!
About the reviewer
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #15
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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