FFB: Sands of Mars

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.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

links to all of this weeks Forgotten Book posts can be found
on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in books, Friday Forgotten Book, reading, Review, science fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to FFB: Sands of Mars

  1. Bill Crider says:

    I read that same edition back in ’59. Loved it then. I don’t think I’ll try it again, though.

  2. Evan Lewis says:

    Interesting how our “sense of wonder” grows increasingly harder to satisfy.

  3. Richard says:

    Bill, and I bet you still have it, too.

    Evan, I think with this one it’s a matter of development of technology, scientific discovery and just plain time. I certainly remembered this as being more exciting than it is, and that must be due to the state of space travel in the late Fifties.

  4. Redhead says:

    I’ve had mixed luck with Clarke. I’ve read a few of his over the years, and always liked them OK, but none of them were 5 stars or anything. 😦

  5. Richard says:

    Red, The City and the Stars is the major novel, I think, but my copy seems to have migrated…

  6. Love that cover on that Pocket Book edition! Like Red, I’ve had mixed results with Clarke, too. I remember reading 2001 and still being confused.

  7. I’ve read this too but I don’t remember a lot about it. I have always enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve read by Clarke, though.

  8. Richard says:

    I’m more with Charles than George on this one, it’s main problem is that, at over 50 years old, it’s been severely dated by the march of technology. I read 2001 after I saw the film, so I was no more confused by the book than by the film, if that makes sense. 2010 made more sense to me.

  9. Steve Lewis says:

    I never read 2001 the book, but my wife Judy and I did see the movie when it first came out. No one really understood it, but all the friends we went with had a great evening trying to explain it to each other afterward.

    You can put me in the same category as George. Arthur Clarke is pretty much hit or miss with me too. I do like his short stories a lot more than his novels.

  10. Richard says:

    Steve, I think a lot of people had that reaction. Did 2010 help any? Did you see it?

  11. Steve Lewis says:


    No, I didn’t even know 2010 was a movie. I wonder where I was at the time! Some sort of selective amnesia? I am stumped.


  12. Carl V. says:

    That is so great that you found that note in there. Finding things like that is like finding treasure. I love discovering things I left in books years ago, though I have yet to find anything with that much history to it.

    I’m happy that by the end you upgraded the book back up to your original assessment. Not everything we read holds up over time and it is nice to find that some stuff does.

    Love the cover of this one. I’ve only read a handful of Clarke short stories, no novels to this point, something I need to remedy someday.

  13. Pingback: FFB: Islands in the Sky | The Broken Bullhorn

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