Monday, December 21, 2009

25 notable Mars books of the past decade

After browsing some bibliographies, perusing industry and fan reviews, and reflecting upon my own readings, I’ve put together a list of 25 notable Mars books from the past decade. While I don't consider it to be a “Best of” list, I think most readers of Martian science fiction will agree with about 20 of the 25 titles. Best of success in finding some of these at your local library!

1. Mars Crossing, by Geoffrey A. Landis
(Tor, 2000)
Hard science fiction written by a NASA geek; a team of human explorers make a perilous trek across the surface of Mars in the mid-21st century; Locus Poll Award, Best First Novel; nominated for Nebula Award, Best Novel.

2. Martian Knightlife, by James P. Hogan
(Baen, 2001)
Blends tongue-in-cheek adventure with mystery as a man and his female companion try to solve a teleportation experiment on Mars gone awry; preliminary nominee for Prometheus Award for Best Libertarian SF Novel.

3. The Secret of Life, by Paul J. McAuley
(Voyager/HaperCollins, 2001)
NASA taps a female biologist to venture to Mars in the year 2026 to investigate rumors that the Chinese have discovered Martian life; nominated for British Science Fiction Award, Best Novel; nominated for Arthur C. Clarke Award, Best Novel.

4. Ares Express, by Ian McDonald
(Earthlight, 2001)
A literary novel with "mind-stretching ideas and trains as big as city blocks"; the follow-up to McDonald’s influential 1988 debut novel, Desolation Road.

5. Oxygen, by John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson
(Bethany House, 2001)
A near future Christian novel that delivers a “spiritual payload"; a female microbial ecologist and medical doctor must rely on her faith to survive a sabotaged mission on Mars.

6. First Landing, by Robert Zubrin
(Ace, 2001)
Near future hard SF thriller chronicles the first human mission to the Red Planet; written by the founder of the Mars Society.

7. The Forge of Mars, by Bruce Balfour
(Ace, 2002)
NASA unearths alien artifacts in the caverns of Mars.

8. The Sky So Big and Black, by John Barnes
(Tor, 2002)
A teenage girl is groomed to be an ecospector on the harsh frontier of a partially terraformed Mars; considered by some to be written in the tradition of Robert A. Heinlein's 1963 juvenile novel, Podkayne of Mars.

9. Martian Quest: The Early Brackett, by Leigh Brackett
(Haffner Press, 2002)
Twenty of the earliest stories written by the Queen of Space Opera; some, but not all, are set on Mars.

10. Mars Probes, edited by Peter Crowther
(DAW, 2002)
Seventeen tales about Mars and Martians; contributors include Ray Bradbury, Eric Brown, Paul Di Filippo, Alastair Reynolds, Scott Edelman, Allen Steele, Stephen Baxter, Gene Wolfe and Michael Moorcock.

11. Red Thunder, by John Varley
(Ace, 2003)
The first novel in a near future Mars trilogy; considered by some to be written in the vein of Robert A. Heinlein's classic juvies.

12. Martianthology, compiled by Forrest J Ackerman
(Sense of Wonder Press, 2003)
An eccentric collection of pre-1970 short stories about Mars and Martians; works by Cecil B. White, Ross Rocklynne, Hendrik Dahl Juve, Stanton A. Coblentz, Ed Earl Repp and others.

13. Ilium, by Dan Simmons
(Eos, 2003)
Homer's The Iliad set on Mars; Locus Poll Award, Best SF Novel; nominated for Hugo Award, Best Novel.

14. The Orion Protocol, by Gary Tigerman
(William Morrow/HarperCollins, 2003)
A PBS science correspondent receives secret decades-old NASA pictures of fabulous archeological ruins on Mars, exposing a government cover-up.

15. Dying Planet: Mars in Science and the Imagination, by Robert Markley
(Duke University Press, 2005)
A scholarly analysis of Martian science fiction.

16. Buried Deep, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
(Roc, 2005)
A SF-CSI novel in which a Retrieval Artist travels to the Red Planet to investigate a human skeleton found on an alien construction site.

17. Fourth Planet from the Sun: Tales of Mars from the Magazine of Fantasy and Science, edited by Gordon Van Gelder
(Thunder's Mouth Press, 2005)
Some of the greatest science fiction writing about the Red Planet; stories by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Leigh Brackett, Roger Zelazny, Philip K. Dick and others.

18. Project MARS: A Technical Tale, by Wernher von Braun
(Apogee Books, 2006)
Never-before-printed science fiction novel by the famous German rocket scientist.

19. Thirteen, by Richard K. Morgan
(Del Rey/Ballantine, 2007)
Military SF in which a murderous genetically-manipulated human has escaped from exile on Mars and must be hunted down; published in the UK as Black Man; Arthur C. Clarke Award, Best Novel; nominated for British Science Fiction Award, Best Novel.

20. Masters of Mars, by Al Sarrantonio
(Science Fiction Book Club, 2007)
Collects Sarrantonio's novels Haydn of Mars (2004), Sebastian of Mars (2005) and Queen of Mars (2006) into one volume; cats rule the Red Planet!

21. One Day on Mars, by Travis S. Taylor
(Baen, 2007)
Nonstop military SF; first novel in the The Tau Ceti Agenda series.

22. The Margarets: A Novel, by Sheri S. Tepper
(Eos, 2007)
The only child of a human colony on Phobos working on a doomed project to transform Mars into a garden planet invents her own imaginary companions.

23. Mars Life, by Ben Bova
(Tor, 2008)
The last novel in a near future geological-anthropological trilogy about mankind's discovery of an extinct Martian civilization.

24. Marsbound, by Joe Haldeman
(Ace, 2008)
A maturing young woman and her family are among the first humans to settle on Mars; light-hearted and packed with humor; written by SFWA's newest Grand Master.

25. You choose the last book!


Blue Tyson said...

Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories sounds good to me.

Good list, never heard of some of those.

K.E. said...

"Buried Deep" was outstanding and so was "Oxygen" and it's sequel. I've got "Ares Express" on the shelf and I'm sure it is excellent but I've still not brought myself to read it (almost like trying to read Joyce's "Ulyssees" or Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow"--- I need to be in a certain mindset to take that one on).

Had not heard of some on this list. Surprised I missed a few of them. :-)

Not sure what I'd suggest for #25. Will have to give that some thought.

Cool list! Thanks for putting it together! :-)

venusvulturenews said...

Mars Life is a fun book - always enjoy Bova. Yay, the library here has Rusch's Buried Deep, so I've grabbed it and will read over the holidays - thanks for the tip. Great list.

Anonymous said...

It's not Martian, but The Life and Strange Surpising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (yes, the original) by Daniel Defoe still strike me as the ultimate tale of survival against insurmountable odds.
Of course an eBook reader filled with labratory chemistry texts, preferably those dealing with the many wonderful uses of Carbon-dioxide (CO2) would be more practial... However, somehow the mindset of fortitude & survival from the former seems more apropriate to prepare for pioneering Mars.

Paul said...

Yeah, Buried Deep sounds really good. I'm moving it up near the top of my to-be-read list.

Re Robinson Crusoe: Rex Gordon wrote a book in the 1950s called No Man Friday (UK). I think it was published in the US as First on Mars. I have a paperback in which the cover declares the astronaut to be the Robinson Crusoe of the Red Planet.

K.E. said...

Possibly mising from the list: Kage Baker's Empress of Mars... I read the novella ... I have the longer novel version, but haven't read it yet.

Paul said...

Thanks, K.E.

Winterstrike (2008) by Liz Williams is another that almost made my list.