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The Martian Race Mass Market Paperback – January 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

With so many Mars novels having been published in recent years, including award-winning fiction by Kim Stanley Robinson and others, it's hard to believe that even a talented writer like Benford (Cosm) could pull off another successful retelling of humanity's first expedition to the Red PlanetAbut he does. In the early 21st century, after NASA's Mars program has been grounded because of a Challenger-like catastrophe, a $30 billion prize is announced to be awarded to the first private organization that can land a spaceship on Mars, do serious science and return in one piece. Enter John Axelrod, eccentric billionaire and space aficionado. His Consortium launches a bare-bones Mars expedition that is closely followed by a Chinese-European attempt, and the race for Mars is on. Landing on the Red Planet, veteran astronaut Julia Barth and her comrades run into difficulties. Their return craft has suffered serious damage and may not be repairable. Even if they can lift off, they discover that their nuclear-powered Chinese-European competitor, although launching later than they did, may have the sheer power necessary to return to Earth first. Then, after months of fruitless searching, Julia discovers evidence of life on Mars. Benford is a solid prose stylist who creates full-toned characters. A practicing physicist, he writes plausible hard SF as well as anyone on the planet, and his portrait of Mars is among the most believable in recent genre literature. His strange and beautiful Martian ecology is so well described, in fact, that most readers will hope to explore it further, in a sequel. (Dec.) scheduled December 3, 1999, touchdown of the Mars Polar Lander.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Aspect; Reprint edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446608904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446608909
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,436,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gregory Benford, author of top-selling novels, including Jupiter Project, Artifact, Against Infinity, Eater, and Timescape, is that unusual creative combination of scientist scholar and talented artist; his stories capture readers - hearts and minds - with imaginative leaps into the future of science and of us.

A University of California faculty member since 1971, Benford has conducted research in plasma turbulence theory and experiment, and in astrophysics. His published scientific articles include well over a hundred papers in fields of physics from condensed matter, particle physics, plasmas and mathematical physics, and several in biological conservation.

Often called hard science fiction, Benford's stories take physics into inspired realms. What would happen if cryonics worked and people, frozen, were awoken 50 years in the future? What might we encounter in other dimensions? How about sending messages across time? And finding aliens in our midst? The questions that physics and scientists ask, Benford's imagination explores.
With the re-release of some of his earlier works and the new release of current stories and novels, Benford takes the lead in creating science fiction that intrigues and amuses us while also pushing us to think.

Customer Reviews

It had good character development, a firm plot and the story was interesting.
The idea of making the exploration of Mars a race gave The author the opportunity to add to the suspense in the novel.
L. O'Connell
This one volume is a better Mars short-take than The Red Planet , Green Planet , and Blue Planet Books.
M. H. Huggins

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Emil L. Posey on March 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is "hard sci fi," just as I like it. The title refers to a race to Mars, not a race of Martians (although it comes close to that, too). It's as much an example of "how to" on the cheap as it is a story. Benford is down on NASA (or the Federal government, or both), postulating a competition to Mars with a huge purse ($30 billion) as the way to get a human expedition there. That might be what it takes. Yet it's also a call for cooperation rather than competition. He shows the downside of human nature -- competitiveness, going for the gold, the potential for a breakdown of discipline in difficult situations. He advocates nuclear propulsion systems for planetary exploration, rather than today's chemical systems. He stresses how difficult planetary exploration will be -- especially the early stages, when improvisation and self-sufficiency are critical and thereby makes a case for on-the-spot decision-making rather than relying on orders from Mission Control. He also looks forward to life (past or present) on Mars. He was very creative in his depiction of what it could be like. In fact, this novel once again demonstrates to me the limitations of my creative abilities. Maybe I'm just intimidated, but I can't imagine writing a novel this well put together, this imaginative yet full of sophisticated technical detail. Heck, I wonder if I could even come up with a good idea for a "beginning, middle, and end." At any rate, it was an excellent adventure story, notwithstanding the fact that the end was predictable two-thirds of the way into the book. Benford put his lead characters through so many troubles (it actually got depressing at one point) in order to show the extent of danger and difficulties he expects planetary explorers to face that he left them only one way out. Arguably, that aspect of it could have been better written. And the way the threads came together in the end just fit too well.
Still, I enjoyed it immensely.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By on December 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is the real, hard stuff--an informed look at how we might go to Mars, for the very best reasons, both scientific and personal. Better than the Robinson because it's about what we can do NOW, not political dreams. A great read, fast pace, real characters.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Seamus on March 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First a disclaimer: I'm an unrepentant Gregory Benford fan. But in a sci-fi world increasingly dominated by Star Wars and dragons, I think any lover of hard-science fiction will enjoy this novel. The fact that it is based on technology from Robert Zubrin's 'Mars Direct' program is icing on the cake. This really *could* happen.
It's a great read, and I recommend it highly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Arthur W. Jordin on August 2, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Martian Race (1999) is a SF novel about the race for the Mars Prize. When NASA submitted a budget of 450 billion dollars to go to Mars, Congress suffered from sticker shock and turned down the project. Instead, the United States and other Western countries offered a prize of 30 billion dollars for the first voyage that accomplished specified goals.

NASA continued to prepare for a voyage to Mars in 2016, but used the Mars Direct model instead of the previous boondoggle version. Step by step, NASA built and tested their equipment. They sent an Earth Return Vehicle to Mars to manufacture methane for the return voyage. But their launch of an orbital vehicle to test the centrifugal force idea was a spectacular failure, destroying the equipment and killing the crew. Congress canceled the NASA Mars program.

Still, a private Consortium was set up by billionaire John Axelrod to win the Mars Prize. The Consortium started hiring ex-NASA astronauts and buying surplus NASA equipment. But they downsized the mission to four astronauts instead of the previous six crewmembers.

In this novel, Julia, Viktor, Marc and Raoul survive the six month trip and aerobraking to land in Gusev crater. Shaped like a tuna can, the two-story habitat is a strange landing vehicle, but adequate living quarters. They have brought a pressurized rover, but also convert the two onsite vehicles to manual control.

Raoul spends most of his time repairing the ERV, which had landed with enough lateral vector to damage the engine pipes. The peroxide dust and the extreme changes in temperature at the surface have also damaged the ERV components. Although he is able to replace and refit many parts, Raoul doesn't have the tools to do as much as he wishes.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "nialw" on July 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The martian race is a very good hard sci-fi novel.
NASA gives up going to Mars and instead offers a prize of $30 billion dollars to the first company that can safely land, conduct research and return. There are two companies that decide to take up the challenge, the first an american company run by John Axelrod and the second an asian/european company. The book is set from the point of view of the only woman (and wife of the mission captain) of the american team.
After a stay of 18 months on the planet the american crew is about to lift off when complications with their 'borrowed' return vehicle arise. To make matter worse the asian crew are about to land then leave almost immediately, to beat them back, in a quick snatch and grab operation. In the end it all boils done to a race on who can get of the planet and back to Earth first and claim the price.
Overall it was a good action/adventure type book that had just the right amount of believable science in it so that if you read the story in the paper tomorrow it wouldn't be hard to believe. Not a fantasy sci-fi but a believeable sci-fi. Like Jurassic Park.
The only drawback of the novel I found was a slight lack of punch at the end, but still very good. I would definitely recommend this book to any reader.
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