Monday, September 21, 2009

Mars Underground, a 1997 novel by scientist, author and artist William K. Hartmann

Mars Underground (1997), a novel by planetary scientist, author and artist William K. Hartmann

At left: Paperback (New York: Tor, 1999), 428 p., $6.99. Cover design by Martha E. Sedgwick. Here’s a description of the novel, from the back cover:

2032. The human race has established colonies on Mars. For years Dr. Alwyn Stafford researched its biggest mystery: Did life evolve on the Red Planet? The answer, excpet for simple, long-dead microorganisms, was no.

Now retired, Stafford stubbornly continues his quest. Rumors say he's been going farther than ever before into the Martian deserts.

Then he goes out and doesn't return. As the search for him grows, it becomes apparent that the old man found something that will forever change humanity's place in the cosmos. …

The covers and end pages of Mars Underground contain a number of impressive blurbs, from such SF luminaries as Stephen Baxter, Greg Bear, Greg Benford, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke. Here’s the blurb penned by Stephen Baxter:

Mars Underground is many things. It is a story of the real Mars, replete with erudition -- history, literature, astronomy, geology, and above all, wisdom. At the conclusion of a satisfying mystery there is a revelation of Something Wonderful: not only more wonderful than we have imagined, but -- Hartmann suggests -- more wonderful than we can imagine. In Mars Underground, Mars comes alive. With Mars Underground, Bill Hartmann has added his own poetic stratum to the multilayed myth of Mars.”

Mars Underground was reviewed by Marc Goldstein of the SF Site, Amy Harlib of SciFiDimensions, and T. M. Wagner of SF, as well as by several professional publications.

A review in Booklist concluded that "Unlike many novels by scientists, however, this one does not feel like a scientific treatise posing as fiction. Hartmann is an excellent storyteller, and his well-developed characters, intriguing mystery, and seamless incorporation of important scientific information all contribute to a rich and satisfying adventure. Recommend the novel to fans of both science fiction and mysteries and to anyone caught up in the current interest in Mars."

However, a review in Kirkus Reviews was not quite so positive, concluding that Mars Underground has "Facts and philosophizing by the ton, but tepid dramatics, a wispy plot, and no suspense at all: a ponderous workhorse of a yarn."

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