Thursday, May 20, 2010

“The Emperor of Mars,” a new recursive SF/F novelette by Allen Steele

I’m reading my way through “The Emperor of Mars,” a new recursive SF/F novelette by Hugo Award-winning author Allen M. Steele that was published in the June 2010 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. The plot revolves around Jeff Halbert, a roughneck stationed on a near-future Mars, who, after suffering severe emotional trauma, starts reading the contents of the Planetary Society's “Visions of Mars” DVD library that he recovers from NASA’s dead Phoenix lander. Unfortunately, Jeff's fragile state of mind and reading habits lead to some rather erratic behavior. The first few pages of Steele's novelette are posted on Asimov’s website.

While I think there are a few weaknesses to "The Emperor of Mars," it’s an easy, enjoyable, must-read for hardcore fans of Martian science fiction & fantasy for two reasons:

1) The storyline mentions quite a few classic authors, works and characters from the field, such as H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, “A Martian Odyssey” (1934), “The Enchanted Village” (1950), Lieutenant Gullivar Jones, and Dejah Thoris

2) Steele is no alien to the sub-genre, having written “Live from the Mars Hotel” (1988), “Red Planet Blues” (1989), Labyrinth of Night (1992), “A Letter from St. Louis” (1996), “Zwarte Piet's Tale” (1998) and “A Walk Across Mars” (2002)

If you don’t subscribe to Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, you can read Allen Steele's "The Emperor of Mars" by purchasing the June 2010 issue through Fictionwise for just a few dollars.

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