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The Martian Race

The Martian Race [Kindle Edition]

Gregory Benford
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

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, The Martian Race deserves top honours among the millennial wave of Mars exploration tales, propelled as it is by the skilful 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 likeable Julia and her Russky hubby Viktorand 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


`...writes with verve and insight not only about black holes and cosmic strings but about human desires and fears' -- New York Times Book Review

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 634 KB
  • Print Length: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Gateway (29 Sep 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005K8H0JG
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #60,763 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling nut's and bolts Hard SF 2 May 2000
By A Customer
I'd better begin by saying I am a Gregory Benford addict. In view of this and my engineering background: I found the technical details precise and believable, the description of Mars and her environs beautifully written. Nevertheless, the personal interactions between Tycoon and Astronauts fell down somewhat from the beginning as did the corresponding spats with the Airbus crew. This is unusual for me as Benford often excels with human interaction. However, this does not hold up the plot machinations or hinder the book in any serious way.
Overall, the story is extremely compelling - and the science even more so - and I would rate it as one of the best Mars books so far. Sorry to give you only 4 Greg......
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read 28 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Seems a highly plausible plot with excellent NASA based research for authenticity.
My only criticism would be the foul language of the hero which got tiresome very quickly.
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Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Benford is a director of The Mars Society, an organisation set up by Robert Zubrin in 1998, just a year before this book was published and two years after Zubrin published "The Case for Mars". In that non-fiction work (which I recommend) Zubrin, an aerospace engineer, sets out why he thinks government-backed space agencies will never make any more meaningful moves for manned flight beyond low Earth orbit, why manned flight to Mars and beyond is essential, and then shows how it can be done using existing technology for not much money. When I read Zubrin's book, I was enthralled and was immediately convinced by his arguments. Benford obviously was too, because as well as serving on the board of the Mars Society, he uses Zubrin's "Mars Direct" mission design in this near-future fiction.

What Benford wrote as fiction is becoming fact: the X-Prize, for the first private organisation to demonstrate a reusable manned sub-orbital spacecraft was won in 2004; we are on the cusp of private manned orbital space flight (SpaceX's Dragon capsule passed all the necessary tests less than a month before I read The Martian Race); and there is even a proposal for a manned Mars mission funded by, believe it or not, advertising and "reality" TV. The Martian Race's mission really is funded by investors hoping to recoup their capital investment by winning a prize, and making a profit and meeting operating costs through advertising and TV rights.

So on the large scale, Benford's "fictional" world isn't just believable, it's true. On the smaller scale he also does well. It's full of the little details that make a world not just believable but real, as if you can touch it: little things like the danger of frostbite in your toes when standing on the Martian surface.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just for a moment . . . 30 Oct 2000
. . .I thought something exiting was going to happen but it was just a blob of stuff wiggling around. Okay, so finding life on Mars (oops, but then you thought that would be in the plot anyway right?) would be exiting, but this novel singularly fails to convey any such drama. In fact Robert Zubrin's book oulining the technical basis for how this type of exploration might be feasible (The Case for Mars) is way more interesting and is not cluttered up with clunky stereotypes crunching about in the red dust bothering us with their mundane introspections. And I don't believe astronauts are this dull either, or that a Russian with the level of training and technical expertise portrayed here couldn't get his head around English grammer. And the cartoony mogul pulling the strings on earth is Bond-film implausible. There is a 'dashed off' feel to the whole thing, which is a shame because the science is good enough to support a really compelling drama. Maybe I should write it . . .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST MARS NOVEL EVER 28 Dec 1999
By - Published on
This is the real, hard stuff--an informed look at how we might go to Mars, for the very best reasons, both scientific and personal. Better than the Robinson because it's about what we can do NOW, not political dreams. A great read, fast pace, real characters.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Sci-Fi. 13 Mar 2002
By Emil L. Posey - Published on
This is "hard sci fi," just as I like it. The title refers to a race to Mars, not a race of Martians (although it comes close to that, too). It's as much an example of "how to" on the cheap as it is a story. Benford is down on NASA (or the Federal government, or both), postulating a competition to Mars with a huge purse ($30 billion) as the way to get a human expedition there. That might be what it takes. Yet it's also a call for cooperation rather than competition. He shows the downside of human nature -- competitiveness, going for the gold, the potential for a breakdown of discipline in difficult situations. He advocates nuclear propulsion systems for planetary exploration, rather than today's chemical systems. He stresses how difficult planetary exploration will be -- especially the early stages, when improvisation and self-sufficiency are critical and thereby makes a case for on-the-spot decision-making rather than relying on orders from Mission Control. He also looks forward to life (past or present) on Mars. He was very creative in his depiction of what it could be like. In fact, this novel once again demonstrates to me the limitations of my creative abilities. Maybe I'm just intimidated, but I can't imagine writing a novel this well put together, this imaginative yet full of sophisticated technical detail. Heck, I wonder if I could even come up with a good idea for a "beginning, middle, and end." At any rate, it was an excellent adventure story, notwithstanding the fact that the end was predictable two-thirds of the way into the book. Benford put his lead characters through so many troubles (it actually got depressing at one point) in order to show the extent of danger and difficulties he expects planetary explorers to face that he left them only one way out. Arguably, that aspect of it could have been better written. And the way the threads came together in the end just fit too well.
Still, I enjoyed it immensely.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard science fiction at its best 29 Mar 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
First a disclaimer: I'm an unrepentant Gregory Benford fan. But in a sci-fi world increasingly dominated by Star Wars and dragons, I think any lover of hard-science fiction will enjoy this novel. The fact that it is based on technology from Robert Zubrin's 'Mars Direct' program is icing on the cake. This really *could* happen.
It's a great read, and I recommend it highly.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Trivid Personality 2 Aug 2006
By Arthur W. Jordin - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Martian Race (1999) is a SF novel about the race for the Mars Prize. When NASA submitted a budget of 450 billion dollars to go to Mars, Congress suffered from sticker shock and turned down the project. Instead, the United States and other Western countries offered a prize of 30 billion dollars for the first voyage that accomplished specified goals.

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. The first test results in even more damage. He needs more tools; in fact, he really needs a replacement ERV.

The scientific program continues concurrently with the ERV repairs. Marc explores the surrounding terrain and sets off seismic charges to map the subsurface. They find evidence of surface water, underground caverns, and billion year old bacterial fossils.

As they approaching the end of their stay on the Red Planet, Julia and Viktor discover a venting sinkhole. When they approach it and prepare to descend, they find moisture and water ice. Julia gets a sample off the lip of the hole, but then Viktor slips on the ice and sprains his ankle; he has to be taken back to the hab immediately.

Julia checks her samples in the lab and finds organic residue. Although ruptured by the cold and lower pressure, this residue may have been cellular remains. Unfortunately, the men are focused on the ERV repairs and will not let her return to the vent for more exploration.

This novel depicts the political intrigues surrounding the first manned flight to Mars. Scientific research is peripheral to the political aspects. When Julia confirms the biological origins of her samples, she is told to keep silent about her discoveries.

Unfortunately, politics is the name of the game. Whether public or private, research is funded primarily for the political (and economic) returns. The whole space program is evidence of the political nature of such projects. Even a private venture will have to show a political reward of some nature, probably in entertainment and related products.

This work draws heavily on Heinlein's The Man Who Sold the Moon, which in turn was based on Amundsen's trek to the south pole. Of course, Amundsen did not have trivid, email, or direct broadcasts, but he did sell newspaper articles and stamps postmarked at (or near) the Pole. This book shows how the media could dominate private planetary exploration.

Highly recommended for Benford fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of planetary adventure.

-Arthur W. Jordin
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best mars sci-fi book I've read 1 Aug 2000
By "nialw" - Published on
The martian race is a very good hard sci-fi novel.
NASA gives up going to Mars and instead offers a prize of $30 billion dollars to the first company that can safely land, conduct research and return. There are two companies that decide to take up the challenge, the first an american company run by John Axelrod and the second an asian/european company. The book is set from the point of view of the only woman (and wife of the mission captain) of the american team.
After a stay of 18 months on the planet the american crew is about to lift off when complications with their 'borrowed' return vehicle arise. To make matter worse the asian crew are about to land then leave almost immediately, to beat them back, in a quick snatch and grab operation. In the end it all boils done to a race on who can get of the planet and back to Earth first and claim the price.
Overall it was a good action/adventure type book that had just the right amount of believable science in it so that if you read the story in the paper tomorrow it wouldn't be hard to believe. Not a fantasy sci-fi but a believeable sci-fi. Like Jurassic Park.
The only drawback of the novel I found was a slight lack of punch at the end, but still very good. I would definitely recommend this book to any reader.
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