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Ares Express (Desolation Road Universe #2)

3.83  ·  Rating Details  ·  218 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Taking place in the kaleidoscopic future of Ian McDonald's Desolation Road, this novel 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. One young woman, Sweetness Octave Glorious-Honeybun Asiim 12th, becomes the ...more
Paperback, 389 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Pyr (first published December 31st 2000)
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Oct 04, 2013 Terry rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, sci-fi
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
Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who like books about Mars
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
May 16, 2010 Jacob rated it really liked it
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
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. 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'
Bookmarks Magazine
Jun 16, 2010 Bookmarks Magazine rated it liked it
Shelves: july-aug-2010
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
Apr 13, 2012 Ralph rated it really liked it
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
Jul 02, 2012 Suz rated it it was amazing
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
Dan's Obsessions
Aug 15, 2015 Dan's Obsessions marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rebellious grand'daughters, run-away brides riding the Mars Express
Recommended to Dan's by: no-one
Quick reference notes:

This book is The Wild West on Mars. Trains, petticoats, parasols, traveling extravaganzas, etc. It's not necessary to have read DESOLATION ROAD, you can understand this as a stand-alone.

There are a lot of fun and interesting concepts here: Siamese twins, ghosts, alternate dimensions, gambling for years of life, and time travel.

Sweetness is a strong and likeable character, and her tough-as-nails grandmother, Taal, is a joy to read about. She uses her feisty old woman role t
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
Apr 24, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 29, 2014 Alan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Train buffs
Recommended to Alan by: Amanda; previous work
"People who live in deserts are either mad, bad, sad or holy."
—Sweetness Octave Glorious Honey-Bun Asiim Engineer 12th, p.91
All four types of desert folk and more show up somewhere in Ares Express, Ian McDonald's sequel to his first published novel, Desolation Road (which you really should read before tackling this book, by the way, even though their plots are mostly independent). Ares Express took more than a decade to come out in the U.K., and more than twenty years to arrive in the United Sta
Fred P
Apr 09, 2014 Fred P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Fantasy Literature
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, I’ve rarely seen such a consistently envisioned and ...more
Mar 09, 2014 Jaime rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Toda la magia de Desolation Road de nuevo. Gracias Sr. McDonald.
Jesse Toldness
Nov 11, 2015 Jesse Toldness rated it really liked it
What can I say? The plot makes anywhere from 'some' to 'no' sense depending on the part of the story, but that doesn't really matter that much because, much like the post-human Wizard of Oz it is, it's all about the journey. And what a journey! Atomic Trains! Window-Washer aristocrats! Pedal-powered floating cathedral! Year-stealing card sharps, etc etc. Every page is so jam packed with the weird and the wonderful that it keeps you going even when you don't have any idea what's going on, you jus ...more
MeiLin Miranda
Oct 18, 2013 MeiLin Miranda rated it really liked it
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
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
May 29, 2011 Vasha7 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Clay Kallam
Jul 05, 2011 Clay Kallam rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
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
Oct 20, 2012 Klytia rated it really liked it
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
Isabel (kittiwake)
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
Jun 27, 2011 Malquiviades rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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
May 21, 2011 Ron rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 28, 2014 Joe Wuest rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Funny with sci fi and fantasy mix and good action.
Steve M
Mar 10, 2015 Steve M rated it really liked it
A riot of imagination and a more than worthy sequel to Desolation Road. Mind blowing fun!
Apr 09, 2009 Chanpheng rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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."
Apr 05, 2014 Edward rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This one was hard to start and harder to finish.
Alex Borghgraef
Dec 11, 2013 Alex Borghgraef rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 02, 2015 Craig rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Tried to read Desolation Road which is the first in this series. Did not finish it, but worked hard to get through 250 pages of that one. I struggled with 75 pages on this one first, but after being disappointed with Desolation Road, I won't even try. So did not finish.
Jun 04, 2011 Benny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
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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
More about Ian McDonald...

Other Books in the Series

Desolation Road Universe (2 books)
  • Desolation Road (Desolation Road Universe, #1)

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