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This is quirky, funny, endearing and even uplifting story of the first colonists on Mars. Not only is this a sci-fi, “wild west” adventure, but it is a subtle indictment of what society considers “normal”. Historically, “Go west, young man” was a polite way of saying “Go way, weird guy”. This is the case with the initial population of Mars.
In this future, mainstream society is atheist, vegetarian, and non-alcoholic. So those who subscribe to a religion, raise cattle, or drink beer are societal outsiders. The dumping of mental institutions’ population has always been an excellent way to seed the new frontier, especially when antisocial behavior is what put the person in “hospital”. It’s an excellent way to get a blue collar workforce for a completely hostile environment.
It’s nice to see that corporate greed and corruption is alive a well in the future. Pay to move employees somewhere (Mars), then close down the business, lay off the workers and let them fend for themselves. Let’s not forget corporate sabotage, fraud, intimidation… all the oldies but goodies.
The center of this counter culture society is a bar at the end of the habitable tubes filled with people who are at their metaphoric “end of the line”. This cast of characters is well worth the listen. I especially enjoyed the malfunctioning interpreter program used to translate the local Pan-Celt dialect to Italian. There also a lone American that runs a mobile casino\dental\insurance\investment\hmmm…“companion” business. It’s fun to see how the dysfunctional make a functional society.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
Kage Baker???s The Empress of Mars (2009) was an enjoyable listen. It reminded me of a cross between Heinlein???s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and a western like Shane, but with a greater female focus.
Mary Griffith is the big-bosomed proprietress of The Empress, the only bar on Mars. She is working hard to live there with her three daughters and her handful of misfit workers, including Mr. Morton (an ex-psychiatric hospital inmate who would like to be a thespian), Manco Inca (an ex-terraforming specialist who is a devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe), the Heretic (an ex-priestess of a Goddess worshipping religion), and Ottorino Vespucci (an ex-actor from a western show). Mary herself was a biologist employed by the British Arean Corporation in charge of colonizing Mars until they decided to cut costs and fire their workers, leaving them stranded on the red planet. Now Mary brews the best (the only!) beer on Mars, deals firmly and fairly with her neighbors, and takes in any strays who need a place to live. Can she keep her family intact and The Empress in business despite the corporation trying to take her land and the religious organization trying to make her clean up her act?
Kage Baker interestingly imagines how colonists might live on Mars, covering details like oxygen, temperature, shelter, terraforming, transportation, business, entertainment, reproduction, and religion. Her characters are often compelling, with different pasts, problems, and strong points. She also works into her novel plenty of funny allusions, to Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allan Poe, The Wizard of Oz, Spiderman, Clint Eastwood, and so on. Her Mars is attractively gritty and sublime. And although she is sympathetic to women and their strengths and understands men and their weaknesses, she is not writing a feminist manifesto. Instead, she is on the side of kindness, freedom, fairness, tolerance, hard work, and fun.
Reader Nicola Barber has an appealing British voice and dexterously modifies it for different accents (American, Australian, cockney, Italian, etc.), and she doesn???t strain herself unnaturally for men. My only criticisms are that sometimes she breathes in audibly and that sometimes it???s a little difficult to distinguish between her accents for Chiring the Sherpa and Manco the South American, but really it???s pleasant and easy to follow the story as Barber reads it.
All in all I found The Empress of Mars to be an entertaining book, but I bet I won???t deeply remember it.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
Having read the blurb about this book, I was a little cagey about how good it might be. Never heard of the author and the storyline didnt sound that exciting. But the empress of Mars was on offer, at a good price so I gave it a chance. The risk paid off. This is a well written story that is enjoyably narrated. The pace and tone of the voice is soothing and easy to listen to.
There are some interesting characters in the story, the main lady herself, her tenants/employees, the settling farmers and the shady players who seek to profit from subterfuge on the red planet. There are one or two interesting ideas on terraforming and the new technologies that might evolve to make it successful. But otherwise this story has a heartwarming character development and well paced story evolution that, though slow to start, draws the listener in by the end, so you have a real connection with what is happening to the characters in the story as it closes.
All in all the ending is a little crazy and you miss some closure with some of the most interesting characters but this is definitely a story worth spending a credit on, especially if you want to give a new author and reader a try.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful