Having won plaudits from the likes of Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke for his nonfiction (The Case for Mars, etc.), Zubrin delivers a debut hard SF thriller that balances technical detail with political back-stabbing and intrigue. The crew of the Mars-bound Beagle is the usual oil-and-water mix of stereotypes. Mission Commander Townsend, the quintessential "bomber-jacket-clad ex-fighter jockey," has his hands full keeping rein on his unlikely team: Major Guenevere Llewellyn, no-nonsense coal-miner's daughter and flight mechanic; laid-back Texan Luke Johnson, mission geologist; Dr. Rebecca Sherman, the chief scientist with "the mind of Einstein in the body of the young Kelly McGillis"; and dark horse Kevin McGee, a journalist with the political ties to buy a slot as mission historian. An equipment malfunction—possibly sabotage—forces a dangerously off-course landing on Mars. Then Dr. Sherman's discovery of primitive bacteria leads to rioting back on Earth as pseudoscience supporters prime a gullible public with fears of alien contamination. As the president and his cronies scramble to avoid the fallout, further sabotage empties the fuel tanks on the Beagle's return vessel. Will the political climate allow for the sending of a resupply ship? Despite a crew seemingly chosen by Hollywood rather than rigorous psychological and scientific processes, and despite the mission's apparent lack of predetermined priorities and research schedules, among other logical inconsistencies, the action quotient is high enough to keep not-too-fussy readers entertained. (July 10)
Forecast:With blurbs from Kevin J. Anderson, Kim Stanley Robinson and Gregory Benford, plus a fan base for Zubrin's nonfiction, this first novel is almost guaranteed a successful launching.
Release date: 07/01/2001