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The Sunborn Hardcover – March 21, 2005

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this unexceptional and somewhat slow-moving follow-up to The Martian Race (1999), Benford sends Julia and Viktor, the first astronauts to land on Mars, off to Pluto to investigate a number of strange phenomena. The solar system's coldest, most distant planet appears to be heating up and developing an atmosphere. Stranger still, another expedition has discovered life on Pluto, in an environment where it shouldn't exist. Benford has always been fascinated by the possibilities inherent in extraterrestrial life, and he takes advantage of his own scientific specialty, plasma physics, to create some extraordinary creatures. The competently constructed plot details the unraveling of a series of mysteries via the application of scientific method spiced with credible intuitive leaps. What fails to satisfy, however, are the characters. Julia seems too perfect, while her husband, Viktor, is little more than a nice guy with a funny accent. The second exploratory ship's captain, the daughter of the billionaire who financed Julia and Viktor's original Mars trip, comes across as a Paris Hilton with an advanced degree in biology. Her scenes with Julia, which involve stereotypical assumptions about how powerful women must interact, can be painful. Hard SF fans will find this an adequate read, but Benford has done far better work in the past.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

With their death-defying exploration of Mars and groundbreaking discovery of primitive Martian life, Viktor and Julia have become history's most famous astronauts. Now, after a series of exploits deemed reckless by space agency bureaucrats, they are being pressured to retire and spend their remaining days handling agency publicity. Fortunately, the Mars mission's primary financier, billionaire John Axelrod, has the political muscle to reassign them to an ongoing Pluto mission before it's too late; but the trip has a price tag: rescuing Axelrod's zealous astronaut daughter, Shanna, from a calamitous exploration of Pluto's frozen methane surface. By the time Viktor and Julia reach the outer solar system, however, Shanna has not only set foot on the planet surface but also established contact with a walruslike native creature known as the zand. Together, the three astronauts must forge a tenuous union to unravel the mystery of Plutonian life. Working from a thrilling premise and with original, speculative science, Benford, a premier practitioner of hard sf, is in top form. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Aspect; First Edition edition (March 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446530581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446530583
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,879,038 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By James Tepper VINE VOICE on April 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a sequel of sorts to Benford's "The Martian Race" (which was great). Unlike many sequels, however, it is irrelevant whether you've read the preceding novel or not. It uses two of the main characters from the "Martian Race" and obviously takes place in the same universe but that's about it.

It is an interesting twist on the "first contact" theme with not one but three new alien species discovered and communicated with. There is a tie-in to the "The Martian Race" at the very end that is not much of a suprise, having been pretty well telegraphed by the middle of the short novel.

Benford is a great SF writer, as well as a talented physicist and author. He is and has been one of the best authors of hard SF since the publication of "Timescape" some 23 years ago. But this one is a little disappointing. The human (and alien) characters are not well developed and are mostly flat and irrelevant placeholders to this plot-based novel. There is no real suspense and the hard SF is minimal. Of course, none of this will stop me from rushing out and getting the next Benford novel as soon as it's published, since he is one of my favorite SF authors, interesting and tremendously talented. Everyone can have an off-day. This was one of his.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on March 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Two decades have passed since married astronaut scientists Julia and Viktor landed on Mars and discovered we are not alone when they found the living huge Marsmat (see THE MARTIAN RACE). Over the subsequent years, they learned a lot about the strange, anaerobic natives to include their seemingly weird abilities involving magnetism.

However, a new exploration opportunity has surfaced with a chance to go to Pluto, which has suddenly for no reason has begun heating up though still way below zero Fahrenheit and data shows the forming of an atmosphere. Julia and Viktor leap at the prospects to be part of the expedition exploring the coldest known planet in the solar system. Shockingly, a previous expedition led by Captain Shanna has found life, the humongous intelligent zand, on the frozen orb that can communicate with humans. The zand warn that the dangerous mechanical Darksiders are coming on "iceteroids," from the Oort cloud.

This sequel contains a wonderful story line on the vast possibilities of alternate life forms in the solar system. However, the human members of the cast seem shallow. Julia and Viktor have not seemed to have aged in spite of the harshness of their work although twenty years have passed and can do no wrong. Shanna at times is a genius and at other moments a jealous chick lit bimbo instead of a courageous brilliant explorer (the next generation Julia). Other characters are one dimensional unless they happen to be a Marsmat, a zand, or the Darksiders. The scientific discussion that underlies the novel is superb and highlights Gregory Benford's ability to simplify without dumbing down extremely complex theories and do it inside a strong story line that overcomes the prime players.

Harriet Klausner
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By W Boudville HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Benford continues his earlier book, "The Martian Race", with this novel. If you liked the characters and logic in that book, you will probably be attracted to this. Rather didactic in parts, with schematics of, say, the heliopause at the outer solar system. These diagrams would not be out of place in a science text. Benford actively tries to educate his readers. At times this leads to dry passages in the text.

Did you know that Benford's research area is plasma physics? He parlays that expertise into envisioning vast alien intelligences that are basically sparse plasmas. A very evocative image. Along these lines, he makes a valiant effort to portray truly alien minds interacting with each other, and with humans. The effort is commendable. His aliens are not humans dressed up in funny skins, acting as aliens, which is what a lot of science fiction depictions end up as.

But I am not sure that he truly succeeds. While yes, the aliens do come across as different, I found the resultant read to be rather dull and sterile.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Arthur W. Jordin on August 2, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Sunborn (2005) is the second SF novel in the Martian Race series. In the previous novel, Julia and Marc find life in the vented caverns under Gusev crater. The Marsmat is a symbiotic collection of single-celled organisms closely related to archaebacteria. When the ERV tests failed for the second and final time, Julia and Viktor volunteered to remain behind while Marc and Raoul returned in the Airbus nuclear vehicle.

In this novel, Shanna Axelrod is the daughter of John Axelrod, The Man Who Sold Mars and the organizer of the Consortium. Born to Axelrod's second wife, she had conflicts with the two later wives and finally moved back in with her mother.

Shanna had a long standing admiration for Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered the planet Pluto. When the ISA announced their intentions to send a ship to investigate strange changes in the Pluto/Charon system, Shanna was determined to become one of the crew members.

She was already a working astronaut in the commercial fleet with biologist/medic training. Although she was well qualified, so were other candidates. She called on her father for aid and he named her as the Consortium selection for the Proserphina crew. When the Captain of the Proserphina was later killed in an accident, Shanna became his replacement.

Julia and Viktor are being continually pressured by the quirks of the Consortium. A new manager is sent from the Moon to coordinate the Martian science effort. She is very abrasive and both Julia and Viktor try to avoid her. They sneak out on an excursion to Vent R, a newly discovered pressure relief vent from the Marsmat caverns beneath the surface.

Shanna discovers intelligent life on Pluto and rides the lander down to establish contact with the creatures.
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