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In the Shadow of Ares (Amber's Mars Book 1) by [James, Thomas L. , Carlsson, Carl C. ]
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In the Shadow of Ares (Amber's Mars Book 1) Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Length: 405 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Details

  • File Size: 998 KB
  • Print Length: 405 pages
  • Publication Date: December 5, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004FV4YUM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #389,563 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Carter on June 16, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a self published Kindle book (one of the authors, James, is a Lockheed Martin engineer). After a prolog in 2029, showing the disappearance of the Ares III mission, the book is set on 2051, as colonization of Mars has started. Amber Jacobsen is 14, and a minor celebrity as "the first kid on Mars". She would just like to be able to live on Earth and be a normal teenager.

After her family's homestead is destroyed by an accident, her mother finds a job at the independent settlement near Noctis Labyrinthus. Anxious to show her worth, Amber tries to be of use, but most of the colonists see her as a distraction, even a burden. As a way to prove her use to the colony (and Mars) she vows to find out what happened to the Ares III mission.

There's a lot of politics here, as the colonists are continually at odds with the Mars Development Authority (MDA) (the book is written with a heavy dose of free market economics) and Amber's investigations give the MDA a reason to try and take over the colony.

There's a mystery, with hints of some sort of conspiracy, and danger to Amber (in an almost "Nancy Drew" sort of way) which I found reasonably enjoyable. I did feel that some of the villains weren't well drawn (that is, their motives seem to come out of left field) and the MDA is almost a strawman opponent for the authors economic arguments (and that with me agreeing with the core of their libertarianism). The science is pretty good overall, and they've given some thought to how the settlements would be set up.

Overall, a retty good read, though I did have some problems with the formatting on my Kindle.
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Format: Kindle Edition
In the Shadow of Ares was a fun read. It's solid SciFi with a twist of mystery. The vivid technical details in the novel are no surprise since the authors are engineers who work in the space industry. That being said, not once did I feel they were droning on about boring technical details; they struck a nice balance between the engineering challenges of life on Mars and the emotional hardships of living on the Red Planet. While adults will enjoy the book, there are also good lessons for young adults. Specifically, young adults will benefit from the graphic contrast between free market economies that excel and centrally-planned socialistic economies that are destined for failure.

The characters were drawn quite well and while the main character, Amber, is a 14 year-old girl, I found it easy to sympathize with her frustration as the only kid on Mars trying to prove her worth to adults who dismiss her as a child. The Mars Development Authority (MDA) was written so well that you can't help but hate the useless, arrogant bureaucrats as they meddle in the lives of the producing colonists who are trying to make Mars a self-sustainable planet. (It was a nice touch that one of head bureaucrats had a hand in buggering up the EU back on Earth before being shipped to Mars.) And speaking of the MDA, I also found the contrast between the references of the earlier free market lunar colonization and the current attempts at centrally planning colonization on Mars to be entertaining.

While the ending wrapped up the main mystery of the story, there were some loose ends just teasing of a sequel. I'd like to see the authors continue the story in a second book, so we can watch Amber continue to grow up and to see how the colonies overcome some of the challenges of creating a self-sufficient Mars despite the overreaching MDA bureaucracy.
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Wow. I dare to compare this to the classic Heinlein juveniles. This novel is very good.

I recommend this for teens and precocious preteens. I'm very picky concerning language and content and I have no qualms in recommending this. Some young readers might find it slow moving at first, but the excitement does grow exponentially and smarty kids would love the martian knowledge shared as the story builds and that knowledge does become important. Eventually, the excitement will make it hard for kids to put it down. The protagonist is a good model but (like all teens) makes mistakes.

I also recommend this for adults. Some of us have gotten caught up in work, maybe a focus on the bottom line, and have forgotten other things that we enjoy, such as a sunrise or just noticing an interesting stone. That sense of wonder is regained for some characters and, perhaps, for the reader.

The novel has a liberty theme, and it even was nominated for the 2012 Prometheus award for best novel. The preaching is short and is there as part of the plot, quite consistent with the characters and important to the story. Some notions explored in the novel are "state is as state does" and "my ideas". A freedom thinker will find food for thought. The bad guys are the usual controlling stereotypes, and it adds to the humor of the novel. (Perhaps this is a gentle introduction to freedom oriented SF.)

The science looks good to me; I learned a lot, too. And the future technology is believable and quite accessible. Both are important to the tale. This is excellent SF.

The look at a Mars culture in the transition period of early colonization is excellent.
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