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The Empress of Mars (Company) Hardcover – 2 Jun 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (2 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765318903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765318909
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 2.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,795,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns on all of Mars, the Empress is the one to visit. Let's raise a round to Kage Baker." Jack McDevitt, author of The Devil's Eye" --Jack McDevitt

About the Author

Kage Baker lives in Pismo Beach, California.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I was first introduced to Kage Baker by a number of her short stories that I absolutely loved. I then moved on to the Company novels, and have enjoyed them immensely (with the minor speed bump of Sky Coyote). Now, with Empress of Mars, I've read a novella by her. Is it any good? As usual, Baker has made me glad that I'm able to read.
Empress of Mars is about the colonization of Mars by the British. As the story goes, "their space exploration effort had not been fueled primarily by a military industrial complex." This meant that its progress was not inhibited by the fact that there were no longer any enemies to face. "This left plenty of room for the private sector." The Empress refers to three things: a bar at the major settlement, the informal title of the owner of said bar, and (of course), the Queen of England. This story only concerns the first two. It's the story of Mary Griffith, homesteader and bar-owner, a woman of stout heart and steely determination, as she faces off against the main company trying to terraform the planet (the BAC, or the British Arean Company). She's trying to keep her family together and stable in a western-like environment, when the discovery of diamonds on her property just makes things more interesting, and the BAC more intent on getting her land.
The Empress of Mars contains all of the Baker staples: quirky characters, fun writing and intriguing plot. At its basest, it is a western about a strong woman on the frontier. This frontier just happens to be the Red Planet, of course, so it includes all the details that this requires (such as space suits to walk around). Baker captures wonderfully the desolation of a community that doesn't have a lot to live for. There's mining and there's drinking, and that's about it.
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Format: Hardcover
With a title evoking the romances of Edgar Rice Burroughs, you might expect this to be a rip-roaring adventure with little in the way of nuance or deep ideas. But Ms. Baker is a little more subtle than that, and what you actually get in this book is a scenario for really colonizing Mars in the face of strong bureaucratic pressure and bumbling plus a lack of interest and funding from Earth.

She peoples her planet with some strong if idiosyncratic characters, including a bar owner (the Empress) who also holds advanced degrees in biology, a lawyer (a lawyer? On Mars?) who seems bent on stymieing the bureaucrats just for the fun of it, an autistic mechanical/electronic genius, a one-eyed refugee from a certain religious persuasion, and a conman/gambler. Not quite the list of people you would normally make up as prime candidates for accomplishing the task of turning Mars into something at least marginally habitable.

There's quite a bit of satire and a fair amount of humor here, but running underneath it all is quite a statement about what makes and keeps people motivated to attempt the impossible, with some strong support for the concept of capitalism. As such, this book stands in counterpoint to Kim Stanley Robinson's excellent Red, Green, and Blue Mars set, which at least at its beginning was based more on the communistic ideal. Both books get their science right, which contributes a lot to the believability of the situation and the actions of the characters. Unlike Robinson's work, which bogged down in places in extreme technical and geographic detail (but which eventually contributed greatly to its scope and scale), this work gives just enough information about the conditions and science involved to keep the reader satisfied that this is a real world.

In all, this is a fun, easy reading romp with a lot hiding just below the surface, well worth your time.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I like Kage Baker's books a lot and have most of them in hardback, but this is about her weakest to date. It's not a bad book, Baker couldn't write a bad book if she tried. The setting and science are convincing, the characters are colourful, mostly, the writing is good, it's never dull and there is always plenty going on.

And at this point I imagine you're wondering what on Mars I'm moaning about and only giving it a three star rating for. The answer is fairly simple: the struggle of the protagonists is never really convincing. The baddies -the British Arean Corporation and its representative on Mars are straw men. There is never a moment when you doubt that our heroes will win the day because the antagonists are useless and easily manipulated. There is never any sense of real threat and, as a consequence, no real drama.

It's a fun read but one without any substance.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 33 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beer as a Necessary Ingredient to Taming Mars 29 Jan. 2009
By Patrick Shepherd - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
With a title evoking the romances of Edgar Rice Burroughs, you might expect this to be a rip-roaring adventure with little in the way of nuance or deep ideas. But Ms. Baker is a little more subtle than that, and what you actually get in this book is a scenario for really colonizing Mars in the face of strong bureaucratic pressure and bumbling plus a lack of interest and funding from Earth.

She peoples her planet with some strong if idiosyncratic characters, including a bar owner (the Empress) who also holds advanced degrees in biology, a lawyer (a lawyer? On Mars?) who seems bent on stymieing the bureaucrats just for the fun of it, an autistic mechanical/electronic genius, a one-eyed refugee from a certain religious persuasion, and a conman/gambler. Not quite the list of people you would normally make up as prime candidates for accomplishing the task of turning Mars into something at least marginally habitable.

There's quite a bit of satire and a fair amount of humor here, but running underneath it all is quite a statement about what makes and keeps people motivated to attempt the impossible, with some strong support for the concept of capitalism. As such, this book stands in counterpoint to Kim Stanley Robinson's excellent Red, Green, and Blue Mars set, which at least at its beginning was based more on the communistic ideal. Both books get their science right, which contributes a lot to the believability of the situation and the actions of the characters. Unlike Robinson's work, which bogged down in places in extreme technical and geographic detail (but which eventually contributed greatly to its scope and scale), this work gives just enough information about the conditions and science involved to keep the reader satisfied that this is a real world.

In all, this is a fun, easy reading romp with a lot hiding just below the surface, well worth your time.

---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great new entry in Baker's excellent Company series 20 May 2009
By Stefan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a great novel-length adaptation of the original The Empress of Mars novella (published by Nightshade Books a few years back). Most of the book is set in "The Empress of Mars", the only bar on the young Mars colony. Mary Griffith barely manages to keep the bar solvent, helped by her three daughters and a number of outcasts (some of whom you'll be familiar with if you've read Baker's short story in The New Space Opera).
Kage Baker really shows off her trademark wit and easy-flowing style in this funny and at times moving story. In the novella, there were some subtle links to Kage Baker's main Company series. The links are much clearer in the novel-length version, including the appearance of two Company operatives and a strong link to one of the main plot lines of the series.
If you've read Baker's Company books, I'd call this one a must-read - you will definitely enjoy this book. If you're not familiar with the series yet, it's actually not a bad place to start because it stands outside of the main plot, but I'd still recommend to start with In the Garden of Iden.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stupendous 17 Jun. 2009
By Tim Lasiuta - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Comedy or Commentary?

Who wouldn't want to go to Mars and be a pioneer?

The settlement of a new planet administered by the British Arean Company attracted all sorts of settlers. Engineers, outcasts, cooks, labourers and dreamers traveled to terraform the Red Giant. Years into the project the BAC realized that they could not turn a profit , and they abandoned the settlers, leaving them to fend for themselves.

Mary Griffith, owner of the Empress of Mars, is trapped by her poverty and lease with the BAC. When a family friend (Cochevelou) offers to sell his 20 acre spread that happens to include a stable supply of barley, her future is nearly secured. While `working' a barren piece of land, she uncovers a rock that proves to be her fortune. As with any community, the local watering hole becomes a central home for barter, news, and networking. The `Empress' matron, Mary, and her daughters, Manco Inca, Ottorino Vespucci, and the Dutch agent, Mr De Wit form an entertaining, complex web of characters that keep you laughing, and yet, yearning to be a pioneer at the edge of change.

There is no stopping a population that sniffs opportunity. Cast off geniuses have a knack for creating big things out of nothing. Consider the biis (drones)(bees?), the magma well, and the unique Clan Morrigan structures.

Keen readers of Martian novels will recognize scores of cultural references. There is Uncle Tars Tarkas, thoats, the `Empress of Mars' even , Barsoom day, Gwynned, Santa Claus, Amadeus, H P Lovecraft, J K Potter, and many others that display a keen knowledge of contemporary and classic literature. I think Edgar Rice Burroughs would be pleased with the compliment, but I'm not sure that Tars Tarkas was really `cute' and thoats were comparable to reindeer.

I was very keenly interested in the novel from a thematic sense as well. As a Canadian, I live in a country that was founded by the Hudson's Bay Company and in a province whose land was granted by the Queen. Just like this novel, mineral rights and leases are controlled by a foreign concern, that knows nothing of the territory except the profit and loss.

This, however, is beneath the surface, and the rich characters drive the book. Kage Baker is an amazing novelist with a gift that few authors posess.

Bring them on!

Tim Lasiuta
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining fluff 21 Oct. 2009
By Ian Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I like Kage Baker's books a lot and have most of them in hardback, but this is about her weakest to date. It's not a bad book, Baker couldn't write a bad book if she tried. The setting and science are convincing, the characters are colourful, mostly, the writing is good, it's never dull and there is always plenty going on.

And at this point I imagine you're wondering what on Mars I'm moaning about and only giving it a three star rating for. The answer is fairly simple: the struggle of the protagonists is never really convincing. The baddies -the British Arean Corporation and its representative on Mars are straw men. There is never a moment when you doubt that our heroes will win the day because the antagonists are useless and easily manipulated. There is never any sense of real threat and, as a consequence, no real drama.

It's a fun read but one without any substance.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kage Baker: Master Storyteller 31 Mar. 2009
By Richard E. Campbell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like EVERYTHING Kage Baker writes, 'The Empress of Mars' is involving, funny, a joy to read, and is filled with characters you care about. The PC- to-the-nth-degree Earth she populates so flawlessly is fascinating and too-horribly possible. Her Mars is dusty red and dry, old and new at the same time. I've been hooked on her work since 'In The Garden of Iden'.
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