- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 34 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 9 Aug. 2011
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005GL7F7E
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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The Empress of Mars Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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)
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
This is a well-written book with a good plot and a great deal of humor. It is a spin-off from her Company novels, telling a story that is a prequel to the events in the main series. It may help to have read the Company novels, as there are a couple of characters a reader will recognize from the main series, but it isn't necessary to read the others. This book works very well as a stand-alone story. I only wish Baker had written another one, a sequel to this one, perhaps, because the characters are people you'd like to know and see again in another story. However, it's too late, as Kage Baker passed away a few years ago.
From what I have read online, this book is set in that universe (The Company) but is a separate story, so knowledge of the other events in the universe are not required. I don't know if that is true, but this book read fine on its own to me. Apparently, this is an expansion of one of the early novellas in the series.
There is plenty of sci-fi technology, especially since the entire story is set on a Mars colony, and enough political intrigue to keep many people happy. Most of the main conflict introduced is wrapped up in this book, although, like I wrote before, it feels like the stage is set for more. I do not believe there was ever a follow-on published, but I enjoyed it enough.
The Empress of Mars is a charming foray from a different perspective into Baker's Company universe. While her previous tales focus on the cyborgs that form the primary workforce of Dr. Zeus, Inc., this tale is told from a normal Human perspective...however, the author makes abundantly clear that the cyborgs of Dr. Zeus are, like all matters important to history, manipulating the situation from the inside.
Baker's trademark wit and humor is, once again, evident in this tale. And, despite the fact that this book was obviously meant to avoid the cyborgs' perspective and focus on how normal Humans are struggling to terraform Mars, I do wish we could have been let in on the cyborgs' point of view. I would have liked to have known what they were thinking at crucial points throughout the book...instead of just the tantalizing hints the author gave us.
Nonetheless, The Empress of Mars is a notable addition to Baker's Company and well worth the time spent reading it.
For longtime readers of the Company novels some familiar faces appear -- Eliphal and Joseph, though Joseph is going by another name -- and the hand of the Company is clear in everything that occurs; but that backstory is largely opaque to the newcomer to the series, so this novel does read well as a stand alone. A newcomer might find some of the implications about our future a little peculiar, but rest assured that any strangeness is explained in the larger series, and it's really not the point of this novel anyway. This is not science fiction with any particular scientific or political or philosophical bone to pick; it's pure, unadulterated fun, much like the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels that the colonists lovingly pay homage to, except with less problematic gender and race relations and a veneer of scientific plausibility. (Baker does manage to keep the canals though.)