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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

White Mars

Copyright 1999 by Brian W. Aldiss and Roger Penrose

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Mediocre (2/5)

I first read this on the 23rd February 2002.

In the 2040s, a manned ship finally sets down on Mars and the process of terraforming and colonisation can being. Back on Earth, the politicians are deciding whether to continue the terraforming of Mars, or to introduce a 'White Mars' policy similar to that protects the Antarctic in the present day.

Twenty years later, the White Mars policy is a reality. The Earth-based EUPACUS organisation is responsible for the strict enforcement of the agreed limits to development. The colony is for research only, in particularly a high-energy and somewhat dangerous search for a new particle, the Omega Smudge, led by chief scientist Dreiser Hawkwood.

Strict limits are set on the types of visitor to Mars and their activities. Two classes of visitor are allowed: "Young Enlightened Adults" (YEAs) and "Distinguished Older Persons" (DOPs).

Tom Jeffries is a DOP, a senior research scientist. He came to Mars with his wife, but she died shortly after their arrival. Now he's planning to stay on Mars and dedicate himself to the Martian community.

Cang Hai is a YEA. She's suffered some mental trauma from the six-month journey. Tom Jeffries takes her, reluctantly, under his wing. She, full of admiration for her adopted father, will document his life and the events in which is about to become involved.

Now massive corruption is uncovered at EUPACUS and the company collapses. Links to Earth are severed and there's no prospect of flights in the near future. The Martian colony must learn to survive on its own, with no help from the mother planet, indefinitely.

Tom Jeffries seizes this opportunity to transform the colony into a modern utopia.

I've been a fan of Brian Aldiss since reading "Report On Probability A" back in the '60s. "White Mars" is a weighty and thoughtful essay on philosophy and politics and in my current incarnation I simply can't quite roll along with it. Even his superb writing didn't quite manage to lift me out of the stupor into which I repeatedly sank. It's sad, this is close to being a very powerful work but, for me at least, it just misses the mark. It probably merits a second read but I certainly can't face that in the near future. I am, however, inspired to read some early Aldiss again.

Loaded on the 10th April 2002.
Cover of White Mars
Cover art by Science Photo Library

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