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Beachhead Paperback – May, 1993

2.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Latest in a sudden flurry of novels about Mars: a near-future nuts-and-bolts account of humanity's first exploration of the red planet, comparable with Ben Bova's recent Mars. Sam Houston Kelligan, son of a wealthy Texas oil baron, has one ambition: to reach Mars. But he and the other candidates hoping to be selected to crew Ares, the first colony ship, must first race against each other on the moon in a deadly game to test their survival capabilities. Robot landers, however, bringing back samples of Martian dust, have returned contaminated with a sort of pre-life infective molecule--to which humans prove susceptible. And throughout the eventual Mars voyage, problems multiply. Two of the crew vote to do a quick scientific survey, then dash for Earth without landing. Kelligan, meanwhile, along with unrequited love Jayne, crashes on Mars and appears to be lost. The rebellious pair jettison equipment vital to the colony's survival, then callously flee, only to be lost in space. Kelligan and the survivors set up housekeeping on Mars, but two of them succumb to the dust-virus. The only hope is for Kelligan to attempt to reach Earth in the expedition's only remaining spacecraft. As Kelligan takes off, the Mars project back on Earth is deliberately bankrupted and then bought up by Kelligan's boyhood rival, who thus has powerful reasons to conceal the truth when Kelligan, barely alive, makes it back to Earth. Solid plotting, restrained melodrama, persuasive Martian ambience: another winning performance from the grandmasterly author of, most recently, Mazeway (1990). -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (May 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812513088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812513080
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 4.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,499,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Initially drawn into the book by it's premise, author and foward by Arthur C. Clarke, I thought Beachhead would take me on a remarkable journey to colonize the planet Mars. The book started well enough, even though I felt that the main characters were generic or stereotypical: a rich boy, perfect women with green eyes and untrustworthy eastern Europeans. Background info for each character is dotted throughout the entire book, even within the last 10%. Strange as it may be, I thought that type of character introduction worked well, however choppy it seemed. Choppy, as well, was the plot. The five months on the Ares spacecraft was summerized in only a small chapter, not exploring difficulties the crew faced in such a closed environment. The plot would jump from a action, skipping detail, and ending straight up at the result. There was no prose behind the between.

Choppy would be an understatement for the final 15% of the book. Details are skipped over as if the the last 15% of the book had been heavily edited out by at least three-quarters. The plot takes huge leapfrogs, which left me 1) scrathing my head in disbelief, 2) groping for the credibility of such a leap and 3) details for how the transition happened.

Regardless of all the above, the story was satisfactory. At times the heart goes out for the settlers through the betrayal, hardships and joys.
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Format: Hardcover
Though not a masterpiece, rather simple, and at times naive, that story entertained me. It's got enough of driven people, betrayals, romances, and action to make it poignant. Who may be more forlorn than stranded people on Mars? Jilted such a long way from Earth, what could you do? Would you survive? What for?
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Format: Paperback
I stopped reading Beachhead by Jack Williamson because it was terrible. The characters' personalities were completely wrong for successful people, much less astronauts. The fusion rocket and Earth to Moon to Mars plan seemed dumb and the idea that the astronauts would be responsible for choosing their Mars landing site when they arrived was dumb. Only knowing a few days before leaving for Mars: dumb. Flying people to the moon to ask them if they really wanted to go to Mars: dumb. Allowing a guy with a Martian disease to leave the moon base for Earth while still infected: dumb. The interaction of the main character with his family and women was completely unnatural.
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Format: Paperback
In Jack Williamson's Beachhead, humanity finally plants its first steps on Mars...though not without much strife. Not only is the planet harsh and unyielding, but internal, and often-times petty, conflict among the first crew threaten to tear apart the dream of a stable Martian colony.

Beachhead was published in the early 1990's, at approximately the same time as several other stories written about the Red Planet by other authors. Beachhead does not hold its own when compared to Robinson's Mars Trilogy or even Bova's Mars. There is simply no grand sense of wonder; and little detailed exploration of this new frontier as was present in the similar stories just noted. Though Williamson does introduce at least one new idea. A member of the first crew to arrive at Mars is a complete coward...not something I would have thought to include had I been writing this story.

On the upside, the plot does move along relatively easily...at least once the story gets moving after the first quarter of the book or so. One does end up feeling something for the characters' plight in the latter half of the book and hope that events turn out in their favor. But again, the overall sense of WE ARE HERE is simply missing.

I am normally a big fan of this subgenre...but this book just didn't do it for me. On the whole, Beachhead is only worth picking up if you are a die-hard scifi or Mars exploration (and I use this term loosely) fan.
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