Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mars Crossing, 2000 novel by Geoffrey A. Landis

Mars Crossing (2000), a science fiction novel by scientist and award-winning author Geoffrey A. Landis.

Pictured: Paperback (New York: Tor Books, 2001) 434 p., $7.99. Here’s the promotional piece from the back cover:

By the middle of the 21st century, humanity has finally landed men on Mars -- only to watch helplessly as the first two missions end in catastrophe and death.

With resources running out, a third -- and perhaps final -- mission to Mars is hastily mounted, with a crew of four men and two women. But from the moment of their arrival on Mars, everything begins to go wrong. The fuel tanks that were to have supplied their return trip are found corroded and empty. Their supplies are running out and their life support systems are beginning to fail. And any rescue mission won't reach them for months, or even years -- if at all.

The crew's only hope for survival lies in a desperate plan: an agonizing trek halfway across the surface of Mars to a ship designed to carry only half their number. Torn by conflict and dissent, and troubled by secrets that endanger them all, they must embark on an ordeal that will test them to the limits of endurance.

Mars Crossing has received quite a few positive reviews and many kind words over the past decade, including these by the late Mac Tonnies:
Geoffrey Landis' deceptively breezy Martian odyssey just might be the best "mission to Mars" novel ever written. Panoramic and insightful, Landis' story of a crew of stranded astronauts forced to circumnavigate an alien world is presented in short chapters of one or two pages. Fortunately, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. Landis accomplishes a taut adventure peopled by interesting characters. And the rigorous portayal of Mars itself is top-notch; never has the stark landscape of another world been rendered with such subtlety and narrative savvy. As with the best of near-future science fiction, Mars Crossing reads with a forbidding -- and exhilerating -- sense of inevitability.
Less complimentary are these concluding words from a review by James Sallis published in the August 2001 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction:
While certainly interesting enough, Landis's characters never quite come alive or register quite true. His approach is reductive, so that too often they're rendered as little more than their quirks: this one out for revenge, this one living a lie, this one ... I found myself longing to know what they were eating. And to hear from one of them just how badly those suits stank.
Mars Crossing was nominated for a Nebula Award and won the Locus Poll Award for Best First Novel.

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