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Ares Express (Desolation Road Universe #2)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  176 ratings  ·  28 reviews
A Mars of the imagination, like no other, in a colorful, witty SF novel; Taking place in the kaleidoscopic future of Ian McDonald's Desolation Road, Ares Express is set on a terraformed Mars where fusion-powered locomotives run along the network of rails that is the planet's circulatory system and artificial intelligences reconfigure reality billions of times each second....more
Paperback, 389 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Pyr (first published December 31st 2000)
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Terry
Wow! There’s really something special about Ian McDonald’s Mars books. McDonald’s Mars is a place I love to visit in all of its crazy, off the wall, illogical glory. I’ve rarely seen the numinous, and irrational, nature of magic so well displayed in fantasy books, let alone in a sci-fi one (the exception would have to be Sean Stewart who is also expert at such depictions, though in a very different vein). Despite the strangeness of McDonald’s Mars (which as I noted in my review to Desolation Roa...more
Jacob
Previously: Desolation Road

May 2010

In this quasi-sequel to Desolation Road (also worth checking out) Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th, almost nine years old (Mars time) wants nothing more than to command the mighty train Catherine of Tharsis, but girls can’t drive. It’ll pass to her useless brother instead, father to son, just like it’s always been, while Sweetness gets married off to a useless Stuard. But then a chance meeting with a trackside fortune-teller reveals that...more
Carmen
Mar 26, 2014 Carmen rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who like books about Mars
Recommended to Carmen by: Library
Props to Ian McDonald for cleaning up his writing - this book made a lot more sense than DESOLATION ROAD (the sort-of prequel to this book).

Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer the Twelfth is about to be placed in an arranged marriage. She's always wanted adventure - and to be a train engineer, but in her society women aren't allowed to drive.

So she runs away from her destiny of a family-strengthening alliance and a stainless steel kitchen and has many adventures.

This book is The W...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Reviews from the time when Ares Express was first published in Britain, as well as recent reviews from the United States, expressed admiration for and awe at McDonald's imaginative clout. Critics who had read Desolation Road, his first novel, were also happy to return to that universe. What divided reviewers was McDonald's decision to bend the rules of SF world making to the point where the novel must almost be classified as "magical-realism-with-rivets." Of course, there is a long tradition of...more
Ralph
A few brief thoughts:
-This book is very, very funny. The jokes are very well integrated into the characterization and plot, in such a way that it is difficult to quote them out of context. I tried to repeat the jokes to people, because they are so thoroughly excellent, only to find that they required too much set-up to be funny second hand. I have decided this 'not funny second hand' will be a virtue.
-There are metafictional elements to the novel which are quite weak, and are the only thing whic...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

(This is being published today in honor of "Ian McDonald Week" at CCLaP. For an overview of all the content regarding McDonald being posted here this week, you can click here.)

One of the things I like most about British science-fiction author Ian McDonald is that, unlike a lot of writers in his genre, he'...more
Suz
Jul 02, 2012 Suz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Suz by: Jeff
Desolation Road was about a town. Ares Express is about a person. I hate to talk about another book too much in a review, but these books are very similar, and Ares is a quasi-sequel. It’s not necessary to read Desolation Road first, but you will catch a few cameos and other things in this book with that background.. They’re both very beautiful, both very lyrical. However Ares Express is just better. It doesn’t suffer from the sudden jarring of character, it doesn’t (excuse the term) go off the...more
Psychophant
This book is not a sequel to Desolation Road. However it takes place in the same Mars and has many references to it, including cameos by the usual suspects.

It has some of the sense of wonder and imagination of that book, but much subdued. Explanations kill the magic effect, and there are too many explanations in this book, so it moves from Magic to bad Space Opera. The focus on one character and breaking the fourth wall at times weaken the effect, and the excessive use of Deus ex machina solutio...more
Fred P
I have seldom read a book with such creative writing. Science fiction has a long history of poetic writing. Authors like Roger Zelazny and Samuel Delaney used a stream-of-consciousness style to convey a sense of the fantastic. Colorful, expressive and non-grammatical phrases evoke futuristic or fantastic scenarios that are slightly beyond our comprehension. John Clute used a similar style to create an eerie futurism in Appleseed. Now it's Ian McDonald, channeling an inner stream-of-consciousness...more
Jaime
Toda la magia de Desolation Road de nuevo. Gracias Sr. McDonald.
MeiLin Miranda
While it's standalone, the beginning of this book is confusing enough that if you haven't read Desolation Road you'll be completely lost--or I was, anyway. Somehow I got this book first; I read a chapter, put it down and got the first book, or rather, it arrived on the doorstep; they'd leapfrogged.

MacDonald's story here is as over the top as it was in Desolation Road, not that it's a bad thing. To the contrary; the Mars he creates is a vivid world with teeming metropolises and vast empty spaces...more
Niall519
Colourful is about right. I came to this without having read 'Desolation Road' first, which may have increased the feeling of just being dropped into a whacky and and frenetic far-future Mars. I'll have to see what I think again, if I do manage to give 'Desolation Road' a go.

The whole tone was very different from the only other book I've read of McDonald's to date: 'King of Morning, Queen of Day', and yet the oddball lyricism remains. This one, however, put me more in mind of Charles Stross or...more
Vasha7
This is a big, colorful, exuberant adventure story, with the energy and sense of mission of its seventeen-Earth-year-old protagonist; it has inventiveness in plenty, and rejoices in it.

We are on a Mars that's been made habitable, but by art not evolution. Implausible things happen constantly, in fact many events seem like magic, but it's really Sufficiently Advanced Technology. AIs that can manipulate the quantum structure of the world shape reality nearly as they wish, but I imagine there must...more
Clay
Ian McDonald, an author I generally like a lot, had a completely different take on storytelling in “Ares Express” (Pyr, $16, 388 pages), and though he had some interesting things to say about the classic heroic narrative, the book itself didn’t work nearly as well as most of his efforts.

“Ares Express” is set on a terraformed Mars which is crisscrossed by fusion-powered trains, and the protagonist, Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th, is a typical young heroine who runs away f...more
Klytia
E io che pensavo che Necroville fosse difficile...non avevo ancora letto Ares Express.
Fin dall'inizio McDonald trasporta il lettore su Marte per osservare l'ingresso in scena della protagonista.
Vediamo la sabbia rossa, le rotaie che iniziano a tremare, a guai a toccarle sono così bollenti che la pelle rimarrebbe attaccata ad esse. Un angelo di metallo appare tra il rosso della sabbia sollevata, come una polena introduce l'arrivo di un treno della Bethlehem Ares Railroads, lungo e gigantesco com...more
Isabel
We're in big trouble, Sweetness thought, face lit by the heat-death of falling angels. What's happening, why, who's doing it? The questions answered themselves the moment she shaped them. That man, up there, just a fistful of metres above your head. but was this the big one, the Angels and Devastation Harx, duking it out, mano a mano, or was he merely testing the limits of his powers.

On a terraformed Mars, trains powered by nuclear fusion carry goods and passengers around the world. The families...more
Malquiviades
Honestly, I was expecting quite more from this book.

The quite interesting world built on Mars is the background of a not so interesting teenager history, which at many points seems to be humorous than anything else. Many of the (side) characters seem to be taken from a wild roleplaying session and are barely the only thing that kept my attention.

So, might be, if there were not any Desolation Road a higher rating might be possible, but... no way. Besides, most of the charm that was in the previou...more
Ron
Basically the story revolves around an engineer on a huge train on some other planet. I have read that this planet is Mars but no where in the book is that mentioned. There appears to some magic with spirits of dead relatives and a grandmother that can cure constipation (really, constipation). The book was really out of my comfort zone. It was aimless and wandering through the first 15% (which is all I could make it through). I had to stop a number of times and make sure this wasn't the conclusi...more
Joe Wuest
Funny with sci fi and fantasy mix and good action.
Chanpheng
I love the complexity and the incongruous groupings of people and imagery in McDonald's books. It's really quite a space opera, but on the ground, swirling around the sands of Mars on and off trains which are cities in themselves.

The only gripe about this book is that it's too action packed. No time to rest as the main character literally falls from one action-packed scene to another. And it's not as tightly constructed as my favorite book "River of Gods."
Edward
This one was hard to start and harder to finish.
Alex
Musings on life and narrative structure disguised as a wild adventure on a batshit alternate Mars featuring fusion-powered trains, a flying circus, human furniture, a madman waging war on angels in many universes, a magical grandmother and a plucky protagonist called Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th... Really, what more could you want from a book? Even better than Desolation Road.
Benny
Desolation Road being one of my favorite science-fiction/fantasy novels, I enjoyed Ares Express, but sadly not as much as the first one. At various times it evokes the mood of the original, but this new story is just as refreshing.
Dave
Really enjoyed this even more than Desolation Road. There were times I didn't quite know what was going on, but the story comes back around.
Constantine
Wow. Just wow. If McDonald wrote a grocery list I would read it -- and it would probably be one of the best grocery lists I'd ever read.
Whitman
Aug 26, 2012 Whitman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Whitman by: TAW, I was looking at the reading list, saw desolation road and decided to check out some of the authors other books
so far it has been really interesting, very very odd and in many ways confusing but I am really enjoying it so far.
Paul
Started off great. Kind of lost its way. Brilliant writer.
Donald
It's well written, but didn't keep my interest.
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Ian Neil McDonald was born in 1960 in Manchester, England, to an Irish mother and a Scottish father. He moved with his family to Northern Ireland in 1965. He used to live in a house built in the back garden of C. S. Lewis’s childhood home but has since moved to central Belfast, where he now lives, exploring interests like cats, contemplative religion, bonsai, bicycles, and comic-book collecting. H...more
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