Monday, November 7, 2011

Book Review: Moving Mars

Many months ago I bought some books at a sale at Pioneer Books in Orem. They put restrictions on which books could be bought as part of the sale, so a lot of the authors I regularly read weren't to be found or were off-limits. But the pricing on the books was irresistible, so I decided to try a few new authors. One of them was Greg Bear. From looking over the Hugo [1] and Nebula [2] award winners, I knew that this book caught some attention. I decided to find out why.

My verdict: The characters were generally believable and readable.[3] Greg Bear has a convincing grasp of the psychology of a Mars-born human coming to Earth for the first time. The political intrigue he portrays is both realistic and fascinating. His vision of the colonization of Mars and of the future of the planet Earth is much more convincing and realistic than Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.[4] Some conversations were obviously contrived just so that Greg Bear could unload some exposition onto the reader, but for the most part his prose flowed smoothly. The book suddenly picks up speed at the end and feels rather rushed. Perhaps this is to simulate the situation Casseia found herself in (or perhaps this was dischism [5]), but I felt like it could've been fleshed out a little bit better. Overall I liked this book and Greg Bear's writing style. I'll definitely try some more of his books.

NOTE: If you're wondering where the term "Vernoring" [6] comes from, it has reference to the 1981 novella True Names by Vernor Vinge. Since I haven't read that piece, I can't tell you any more than that.


[1] See Award for Best Novel.

[2] See Award for Best Novel.

[3] David Brin wrote the following blurb for the jacket of the novel:
"No one spins out ideas like Greg Bear. He explores the very frontiers of possibility, weaving tapestries of wonder. And yet, all of Bear's ideas, all the adventure and action, don't half compare to his finest creation yet—that treasure of a Martian, Casseia Majumdar!"
I, personally, found nothing remarkable about the main character, Casseia Majumdar. She's certainly no Scarlett O'Hara or Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I felt like Greg Bear did a great job of describing how Casseia arrived at the point where she had to make the decision that she did. I just didn't feel like I got to see how she grew into the person that could make such a decision.

[4] Moving Mars won the 1994 Nebula Award, but lost the 1994 Hugo Award to Robinson's Green Mars. Robinson's writing has been labeled as "literary science fiction" (see here), which Dave Wolverton astutely points out, simply means that it's socialist (see here; warning: some language). The political and economic systems proposed by Robinson are so untenable that they render his novels more fantastic than this one, which is about using a tiny machine to move the planet Mars to another location.

[5] e.g. Greg Bear's deadline was coming up and the editors were starting to call on a daily basis. See the Turkey City Primer.

[6] In Moving Mars the practicing of "Vernoring" has two rules: 1. you always use an alias and 2. you never do anything illegal under that alias.

Image attributions:

Mars and Phobos is by Chris Christner, available at 

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