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The Martian Race Hardcover – December 1, 1999
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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
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.
Top Customer Reviews
Still, I enjoyed it immensely.
It's a great read, and I recommend it highly.
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.Read more ›
The Martian Race is an exciting take on a near future where one more fatal accident in the space program has left NASA canceling its Mars Exploration program that was considered the front runner in claiming a $30 billion international prize for the first successful exploration mission to the red planet. But, the void left by NASA's exit is filled by an eccentric billionaire who leverages everything to to hire away NASA's best astronauts, buy up its hardware (including the return vehicle already parked on Mars, but exposed to the harsh Martian atmosphere), and launch a stripped down effort to make the launch window before it closes for two years.
Benford has divided up the storytelling in a way that sucks the reader into the excitement of the exploration effort, while using flashbacks to tell the story of how the scrappy effort succeeding launching and the trials and tribulations they faced in doing so, as well as the Chinese program that rose as competition in a fog of secrecy.
Told from the perspective of astronaut Julia Barth, this tale brings the reader along for the ride as the mission both discovers amazing things on Mars and suffers potentially fatal setbacks such as corrosion of the return vehicle that needs make-shift repairs so they can attempt to return home.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The major governments of the world want to send men to Mars, but they don’t want to pay for it. So they put up a big cash prize ($30 billion) for the first successful manned... Read morePublished 16 months ago by AudioBook Reviewer
It could have been an interesting story but the characters are so irritating, so cliche ( the good and the bad, the smar and the stupid) that it's difficult to read the book to the... Read morePublished on July 10, 2014 by Mick Andrews
This was a good read. The technology and the details blend together very well to the point where you begin to wonder how much is sci-fi and how much is real. Read morePublished on March 6, 2014 by A. Goyette
I was struck by the similarity between this novel and Steven Baxter's "Voyage". Whereas Voyage is the story of what if Kennedy hadn't died and his space program continued to it's... Read morePublished on February 18, 2013 by Wood Hughes
Another great Sci Fi book on Mars recommended by The Mars Society. The Martian Race is well written by Nebula award winning Gregory Benford.340 pages of fast paced action. Read morePublished on February 9, 2010 by Thomas Erickson
I sent $30 for The Martian Race by Gregory Benford thinking I was getting a standard hardback with dust jacket etc. What I recieved was an edition with a text book like quality. Read morePublished on March 5, 2009 by Mark Bendix
Billionaire's boys and girls beat NASA by parsimony and corporate propaganda.
A novel that details the first trip to Mars by a manned crew. Read more
In THE MARTIAN RACE, Gregory Benford has created what is probably going to be the most realistic portrayal of our first manned expedition to Mars. Read morePublished on February 12, 2007 by James P. Lea