NESFA Members' Reviews


by Ty Drago

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2003, $25.95, 431 pp

This cudda beenna contenda. It's a fairly gritty mystery set in space on a future Mars which consists of a dozen domes which have all become grossly overpopulated slums. Martians are despised and few Martians ever manage to leave Mars or make anything of themselves.

Mike Brogue is the first native Martian ever to become an officer in the Tactical Corps (the military) and after managing to foil a plot to destroy one of the domes, is sent to the Phobos research station to solve a string of mysterious deaths there. He does.

He also deals with some fairly realistic and only slightly overdrawn people, and some horribly unrealistic business, physics and engineering.

The problem is that the small group of scientists on the research station have invented far too much which is far too much beyond the rest of humanity – real research of that magnitude can't be done by a small group in isolation, it takes huge numbers of people many years to work it out, and it can't be a surprise.

Further, even reclusive billionaires don't seclude themselves on Phobos while still actively running their company. They can do one thing or the other, but not both. Running a company requires interaction.

And a slum-Mars. It's a nice picture, but I'm afraid that I can't believe that a domed colony on an uninhabitable planet could long survive if its inside is like Newark or the South Bronx. It would require skilled maintenance and hard, careful work to exist and couldn't possibly survive the kinds of petty destruction that slum-dwellers of the sort Drago write into his story would commit.

Finally, Drago like so many other writers have confused "nanotechnology" with "magic" and seem to think that nanotechnological devices can do anything at any speed with no side effects. Not so, not even close.

I'm forced to say that in spite of it being a decent book, it's more a conventional story with trappings of SF than a real SF story.

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