this is the 77th in my series of forgotten books
Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke, © 1951 -[publishing history: U.K.: Sidgwick & Jackson, London 1951, U.S.: Gnome Press 1952, Science Fiction Book Club 1953, Pocket Books 1954, Permabook (this copy) 1959 – cover illustration by Robert Schultz – science fiction
I first read this, in this copy, in 1959 when this edition was published. I liked it at the time, and I know that not so much because I remember as because I found a note inside that I’d put there when I finished reading it, presumably the summer of 1959, when I was between 8th grade and high school. I made a comment that it was pretty good with good detail, and gave it a “B”.
I took it off the shelf in order to read it for two SF reading challenges (or non-challenges, if you will): The 2012 Science Fiction Experience hosted by Carl V. over at Stainless Steel Droppings and Vintage Science Fiction Month run by The Little Red Reviewer. Click the links for more info on them. Here it is the 25th of January and I’m just now getting to this, so I may only have this one book, but it’s certainly “classic science fiction”.
Space stations circle the earth, the Moon has been colonized, there is an outpost on Venus and Mars has a colony. Mars Colony is fighting the hostile environment, making slow headway in the teeth of political and economic opposition from Earth, which provides the funds and supplies to keep the colony going. It seem as if Mars will never become self-sufficient, never pay off, and the politicians and tax-payers are beginning to think it’s time to give up and shut it down.
Well-known and respected science fiction author Martin Gibson has been invited by the Colony administrator to take a trip to Mars Colony aboard the Aries, a ship which will hopefully carry an increasing number of colonists to a soon-thriving colony, in spite of the sentiments on Earth. It is hoped that Gibson can give the Colony good publicity that will help persuade the authorities to loosen the purse strings and continue support for the Colony.
The trip to Mars aboard the Aries is described in detail, sometimes slow, painstaking detail that many readers today would find boring. Where’s the action and excitement?? Where’s the adventure promised on the book’s cover? It must be remembered that this book was written in 1951. What seems boring to us in 2012 elicited a sense of “oh, wow, that’s cool!” when I read it in 1959.
Gibson connects with the crew during the three month voyage, finds much to like about life on Mars and finally when it seems it will never come, something happens: a sand storm brings down a plane carrying the pilot, Gibson and two others. Finally getting a signal out to Phobos, and waiting to be rescued, the group stumbles upon something that will change the face of Mars – and the Mars Colony – forever.
A third of the way into this book I would have given it a grade of “C”, but by the time I was finished reading, I’d upgrade that to the “B” I gave it 53 years ago. Certainly not the best Clarke wrote, but worthwhile after the real classics have been read.