The Martian Race

A couple of years ago I decided to read all the decent-looking books about the exploration of Mars I could get my hands on.  In the past, this has included:

Gregory Benford's Martian Race is the latest addition to my list.  It's near-future, hard (no "warp drive", ESP, or even nanotech), which always makes me happy.  The basic plot involves Martian explorers on a privately funded mission to win the "Mars Prize".  After a NASA disaster, the nations of Earth offer the "Mars Prize" for the first successful exploration of Mars.  Our heros are the first to land on the planet...but the "Mars Prize" is for the first successful return.  Their opponents in the "Martian Race" hope to do a quick exploration and return to win the $30 billion.

Benford doesn't really milk the tension of this race, which is probably a good thing.  Instead he mixes that drama with character development, the story of exploring Mars, and trying to survive on Mars.  All in all, it's a fairly well-paced book.  It never really elevates itself to a gripping, "just one more chapter before I go to bed" level.  But it never really drags either, so I never really found myself bored and wanting to put it down.  At times, the flashbacks can get a little confusing/annoying, but they go away as the novel moves towards its interesting, if not exciting, conclusion.

3.5 stars Back to Jon's weblog.