Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mars in Science Fiction

Books & Culture, July/August

Marsbound Joe Haldeman Ace 304 pp., $24.95
One More Trip to the Red Planet Mars in the science-fiction imagination.
Reviewed by Joseph Bottum posted 08/18/08

It all started with Schiaparelli, I suppose—Giovanni Schiaparelli, the Italian astronomer who aimed his telescope at Mars in 1877 and saw craters and canyons and dust storms, all the albedo features, linking up in lines that looked, from 36 million miles away, just like, you know, canals.

From there it passed into the hands of that fine American eccentric, Percival Lowell, from the Boston brahmin family of Lowells that seemed, in every generation, to rear up both a staid set of Harvard University presidents and a lunatic set of brilliant goofballs. In a series of books he wrote after the 1894 establishment of his Lowell Observatory in Arizona, Percival explained how the Martians had built the huge canals to access the ice caps at the poles, one of the final sources of water for an advanced civilization on a planet slowly dying.

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My fascination with Mars starts with reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars comics. John Carter is a less famous creation of Burroughs than Tarzan. Later when I was reading better, I was mesmerised by Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. Mars featured prominently in the Golden and Silver Age of science fiction. However interest in Mars waned as the stories become intergalactic in scale. My interest in the science fiction Mars was briefly rekindled by playing the PC computer game The Martian Chronicles. I am glad Joe Haldeman have published a new book on Mars. I look forward to reading it as I have enjoyed his classic Forever War and his more recent Forever Peace.

Mars picture source

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