RogerBW's Blog

Old Mars, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois 26 October 2020

2013 collection of new SF stories set on pre-space-probe ideas of the planet Mars.

As with the later Old Venus there are certain themes that recur: Mars is always dry and old, and usually has canals. (I wonder how much excavations in Egypt influenced the common SFnal idea that archaeology is a thing that happens in a hot dry place far from home?) But it feels as though there's a bit more variation in Marses here than there was in Venuses in the later volume.

"Martian Blood" by Allen M. Steele has a supposedly sympathetic narrator who deliberately and reflexively destroys hard-won knowledge. People other than me may like it.

"The Ugly Duckling" by Matthew Hughes introduces a recurrent theme, that the Martians are still in some sense present in recorded memory; alas, let down by stereotyped characters (the intellectual wimp and the anti-intellectual building crew).

"The Wreck of the Mars Adventure" by David D. Levine prefigures his Arabella of Mars series; it's not quite in the same universe, I think, but has a very similar sensibility and is clearly ready for expansion into something novel-sized. In this case, Captain Kidd is promised a Royal pardon if he'll lead the first expedition to Mars. Fun.

"Swords Of Zar-Tu-Kan" by S. M. Stirling is a short prequel to "In the Courts of the Crimson Kings" written a few years earlier; it's dispensable and slight, but enjoyable.

"Shoals" by Mary Rosenblum is basically The Ugly Duckling again with minor variations. Strong message that when your kid says he can see things nobody else can see you should listen to him rather than try to get him medical help, 'cos he's right.

"In the Tombs of the Martian Kings" by Mike Resnick deals with the same characters as "The Godstone of Venus" in the other volume… and has basically the same plot. Oh well.

"Out of Scarlight" by Liz Williams is great fun, with interesting people… but it could as easily have been on a purely invented world. There's no real connection with Mars here.

"The Dead Sea-Bottom Scrolls" by Howard Waldrop is an account of a recreation, by a human settler on Mars, of a sand-skimmer voyage that a long-dead Martian wrote about. Mostly travelogue but quite pleasing.

"A Man Without Honor" by James S. A. Corey goes back to historical piracy, and saving the Earth from invasion. Good action, if very slight.

"Written in Dust" by Melinda M. Snodgrass is another memory-story, with relationship drama and too many "oh, I realise I have been wrong all this time, everything will be fine from now on" moments.

"The Lost Canal" by Michael Moorcock manages to put me out of sympathy with its protagonist before he's even done anything. Well done, I guess.

"The Sunstone" by Phyllis Eisenstein is more memory, and death, and ethics. Rather decent.

"King of the Cheap Romance" by Joe R. Lansdale is an "endurance in adversity" story, feeling to me like the style of Jack London. Character-free but good.

"Mariner" by Chris Roberson is one of the few stories here that has just one Earth-human on Mars rather than large-scale traffic. He's a pirate sand-skimmer captain (this piracy works very like the historical system in spite of being on another planet) and… it works, I guess.

"The Queen of the Night's Aria" by Ian McDonald has the ageing tenor doing a tour of the front lines of the Martian War (two generations after Horsell Common). I couldn't help a feeling that McDonald cared more about the closing scene than about what the characters would do next, but nonetheless it works rather well.

Nothing profound here, but plenty that's enjoyable.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog. ["As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases."]

See also:
Old Venus, George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois
In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, S. M. Stirling

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action advent of code aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime crystal cthulhu eternal cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics en garde espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 essen 2022 essen 2023 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo 2021 hugo 2022 hugo 2023 hugo 2024 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards mpd museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust scala science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1