Mars Crossing

Geoffrey A. Landis, Author
Geoffrey A. Landis, Author Tor Books $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-87201-4
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
Mass Market Paperbound - 434 pages - 978-0-8125-7648-1
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Alien meets And Then There Were None in this first novel, a fast-paced story of survival and treachery, by Landis, a Hugo and Nebula award winner for his short fiction. In the year 2028, the crew of the Don Quijote are stranded on Mars when a technical mishap occurs, dooming their ship. Five of them set out for an abandoned Brazilian ship, which is at the north pole--half the planet away. But owing to body weight, only three will be able to return home on that ship. Their journey across the harsh Martian landscape in rough-terrain vehicles is fraught with danger--some topographical, some created: it quickly becomes evident someone is determined to kill the others in order to return to Earth. Unlike many hard SF writers, Landis hasn't forgotten the human element: there's the obligatory sex scene, viewed as a rite of passage abroad ship (and consummated in a weightless environment), and a satisfying, albeit unexpected, denouement that's psychological rather than technological. Though the crew members are basically variations on stock types--the stern commander, the weak teenager, the proud black woman, etc.--within these limits the effort is reasonably successful. Make no mistake: it's still hard SF, with a fine overlay of techno-lingo (""The cable was made of a superfiber called Spectra 10K. It consisted of a thread of buckminsterfullerine nanotubes woven in a matrix of polyethylene""), but with the mystery structure and liberal dollops of suspense, it should please SF fans of all persuasions. (Dec. 18) Forecast: Landis is not only a respected SF writer (who's won both the Hugo and the Nebula) but a world-class scientist, holder of a NASA fellowship. Booksellers who emphasize both his qualifications for writing this near-future Mars novel should find the title missing from their shelves.
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