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Desolation Road (Desolation Road Universe #1)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  763 ratings  ·  109 reviews
It all began thirty years ago on Mars, with a greenperson. But by the time it all finished, the town of Desolation Road had experienced every conceivable abnormality from Adam Black's Wonderful Travelling Chautauqua and Educational ‘Stravaganza (complete with its very own captive angel) to the Astounding Tatterdemalion Air Bazaar. Its inhabitants ranged from Dr. Alimantand ...more
ebook, 388 pages
Published October 29th 2010 by Pyr (first published 1988)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,806)
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Terry
4 – 4.5 stars

I was reminded, while reading _Desolation Road_, of two authors in particular: John Crowley and Gene Wolfe. This is not to say that I think Ian McDonald was in any way aping them or merely writing some kind of amalgamated pastiche, but there were elements to his tale that made both author’s names spring to mind. I think the first one was Wolfe, largely because of the way in which McDonald made the magical seem almost commonplace (or was it that the commonplace was made to seem magic
...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
This review has been revised and can now be found at Shelf Inflicted and Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.
Eva

I have five words for you: Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Mars.

If that doesn't make you want to read this book, I don't want to know you.
Jacob
August 2009

This is the story of Desolation Road, a ramshackle, hodgepodge little town of misfits that, over the course of its decades-long existence, would grow to be the home of scandals, time travelers, a religious movement, terror cells, labor disputes, a baby in a jar, and an all-out war which would, briefly, turn the accidental colony into the most important place on Mars.

Despite its sci-fi setting, Desolation Road fits more in the magical realism genre with its colorful setting and dreamli
...more
Adam
McDonald combines the story telling techniques of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with the weird future fables of Cordwainer Smith and Jack Vance (the fable like story telling of all three authors isn’t as different as one would think). It also exists as an examination of our contemporary myths about Mars, including little green men, Bradbury's colonists, and Wells's tripod death machines. A beautiful stories within stories structure. Mcdonald has the mixed blessing of writing a classic in his first boo ...more
Oscar
‘Camino Desolación’ (Desolation Road, 1988) es una de las mejores novelas de ciencia ficción que he leído nunca, pero también hay que añadir que posiblemente no sea una novela para cualquier público. Alejada del marco científico, la opera prima del inglés Ian McDonald fue un soplo de aire fresco para el género. La novela nos cuenta una historia del futuro en Marte, aunque no se trata de un Marte al estilo Kim Stanley Robinson o Greg Bear; estaría más cercano a las ‘Crónicas marcianas’ de Ray Bra ...more
Psychophant
This is a book that is tailor made for me. A well done mix of Magic Realism and Science Fiction, with homages and small details from many writers I enjoy, from Borges to G. Wolfe, from Vance to Zelazny, going through Bradbury. The short chapters really grip you and keep you reading a little more, till the night is almost gone.

It tells the story of a place through the lives of several of its inhabitants. Some of them are unforgettable, and all are special in their own way. In a way, it presents H
...more
Amanda
This book had all the creativity, uniqueness I want to find in a sci-fi book, but most importantly, it was actually saying something. My first reading of an Ian McDonald book and I can't wait to read the next one!
Daniel Roy
Desolation Road is a the magic realist tale of the birth, life, and ultimate destiny, of a desert town. It just so happens that this town is set on a terraformed Mars.

I'm a big fan of Ian McDonald since reading the brilliant The Dervish House, and this, his first novel, has many of the hallmarks of his future talent. There's the stellar prose, of course; often brilliant, sometimes good enough that you want to put down the book to applaud. There's this sense of worldliness: his futuristic Mars is
...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 here illegally.)

Regular readers know that in the last year, I've ended up becoming a huge salivating fanboy of science-fiction author Ian McDonald, and that I have no problem with people knowing this; that's part of what being a book lover is all about, after all, is finding certain writers that we can go all nutso
...more
Libby
Each chapter of this book reads like a standalone short story, and even though the McDonald's elevated figurative language only really works for me about 50% of the time, it's an ambitious book that largely succeeds in what it's trying to do, which is to combine science fiction with magical realism.

The book has much in common with Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" in that the book centers on a group of families in a geographically isolated village and spans the village's founding
...more
Carmen
Mar 21, 2014 Carmen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science Fiction Lovers
There are 69 chapters in this book.

When I first started reading this book, I thought, "Oh, how delightful."

McDonald has succeeded in taking the Wild West and transplanting it onto Mars. This leads to charming tales about strangers with strange pasts blowing into town, in this case a little, tiny town called Desolation Road that isn't really supposed to exist. We are introduced to interesting character after interesting character, and see how they get along with each other, and it is wonderful.

It
...more
Ian
Okay. I give up. I've been trying to read this book all the way through since it came out, about twenty years ago. I've given it at least four college tries. My best try saw me to about page 100, whilst the try that I'm just now giving up only made it to page 43. I have never so badly wanted to like a book that I just can't finish.

First off, I love Ian McDonald. Some of his books are among my all-time favorites. I love his mix of surrealism, poetry, and stream of consciousness with concise descr
...more
Paul
Feb 20, 2012 Paul marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Not rated because I abandoned it halfway through. If I were to rate it, a two star read at best.

I'm very disappointed. I recently read Ian McDonald's novel The Dervish House and thought I'd found a new author to recommend to all my friends. But this one? It purports to be science fiction, but it's really just a bunch of magical hoo-hah: impossible and unreal. McDonald's writing is friendly and engaging, as are almost all of this characters, good and bad alike, but the story has nothing really to
...more
Dan Schuna
Good lord, what do I even say about this book? This is like nothing else I've ever read, in the best possible way. Ostensibly this is a novel about the rise and fall of a small town on the Martian frontier but there's a lot more going on here.

The cast of characters is enormous and each character is unique and vibrantly drawn. At turns hilarious, alarming, and sad, Ian McDonald's first published novel is a bit hard to get a grip on and impossible to label or pigeonhole. The plot moves incredibly
...more
Ryandake
what a romp. McDonald must have had so much fun writing this book.

it has quite a large cast, but characters are introduced with a chapter apiece (for the most part), and the on-ramp is gradual both in terms of introducing the characters and introducing the world.

the writing throughout is sharp, witty, and pitch-perfect, tending toward some pretty biting satire. being satirical, you probably won't walk away feeling like you got to know a person inside & out, but that's ok.

and the names! the n
...more
Michael Haydel
Let me be up front: I only made it through 160 pages of this book. I'm kind of ashamed to say that, but, I really tried hard to make it through it, and just couldn't.

After reading Cory Doctorow's review/plug for this book not too long ago on BoingBoing, I was really intrigued. Mostly because he generally suggests great books, but also because I thought that it'd be outside of my comfort zone, so it would be a good exercise in trying something new.

However, it just didn't jive with me. There were
...more
Olethros
-Arriesgada hibridación para ofrecer una rara avis en su género.-

Género. Ciencia-Ficción.

Lo que nos cuenta. El Doctor Alimantando, tras un extraño encuentro que le prepara para ello y otro que termina proporcionándole los materiales necesarios, crea un asentamiento en una zona montañosa aislada y con cavernas del Gran Desierto de Marte, en su Cuarto de Esfera Noroccidental, al que llamará Camino Desolación (aunque pensó en llamarlo Camino Destino antes de abusar del vino de vainas de guisantes)
...more
Brennan
If I had to pick one book as my absolute favorite work of fiction ever, this one would not only be a serious contender, but I'm about 99% sure that it would be the inevitable winner.

It's been described as Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Mars, but I've never read any Marquez (which I should remedy, I know), so I'd have to describe it as a much more compelling and unusual Martian Chronicles, a mismatch of folktale and character study, a novel approach to nearly every classic trope of pulp science ficti
...more
Ralph
An excellent book. Superbly weird and weirdly superb. It's a sort of magical realist/sci-fi book of a sort I've never read before. Or even heard of. Very original.

The characterization and thematic development are especially outstanding 'for a sci-fi book' as well as in general. If his name was 'Borges', he'd be read in literature departments instead of just winning award in the SF ghetto.

There's no hyperbole in the entire history of hyperboles that can adequately capture how much I appreciated
...more
Julie
Apr 11, 2008 Julie rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Bryon
Shelves: science-fiction
This book is ....indescribable. I read it because my boyfriend read it years ago and said it was really entertaining. I suppose it was, but... there's just so many characters and strange tangents that it's difficult to follow at times, and even when you DO understand what's going on, it doesn't make much sense. There are some interesting characters, and some amusing parts; I may give it another try later on, now that I know what to expect.
Alan
Oct 24, 2014 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Martians
Recommended to Alan by: Amanda, this time
Marvelous how all human strife and conflict was a symbolic enactment of loftier struggles between the Powers Cosmic so that every moment of the present was merely a fragment of the past repeating itself over and over again.
—pp.251-252


Destination Road, Desperation Road, Desecration Road... Desolation Road. Through a series of unlikely accidents, Dr. Alimantando (and what an effort it must have been for Ian McDonald to type that name over and over, in the days before search-and-replace!) has const
...more
Moonglum
Its kind a bit like Northern Exposure on Mars. Its a magic realist story of an unlikely Martian settlement inhabited by misfits.

I loved the first half or so, and the end. The more traditional military adventure plot in the second half of the book was not too much my cup of tea, though I liked the company man rebels hiding in the walls of the corporate HQ.

Jasonk Kolbrich
Amazing interweaving of stories and details.
Tom Whalley
I'd like you to tie a one meter string around a hardback cover of One Hundred Years Of Solitude, and tie the other end to A Canticle For Liebowitz. Place them both on two slick tables, stretched taught, then move each book five centimeters closer to the edge of the table. That center point where the string dips towards the earth is Desolation Road by Ian McDonald; it doesn't quite reach the heights of either book but manages to come ever so close across both genres at once. And yet, that sells t ...more
zxvasdf
I was so thirsty for something of the same flavor of magic when I finished A Hundred Years of Solitude. Desolation Road would have soothed that thirst, but it was better I read it later. Magical Realism on Mars, of Ideas founded upon Science yet beset with impossibilities. It's a wonderful, leaping book, that is a mish-mash of cultures and genres. You can see tongue in cheek references to sources of inspiration (one particularly obvious is Gilliam's Brazil). This should always be the first book ...more
Meredith
This was a great, interesting read - it had time travel, talking trains, supernatural aspects, fables combined with futurism, and fighting The Man. In short, all the things I normally love in several books condensed into one. There are a lot of unforgettable characters - in fact, possibly too many. It was hard to settle down into the story, as the point of view shifted from moment to moment. Instead, I enjoyed it almost like a collection of short stories that all had to do with one town. Definit ...more
Vladan Jocic
Ova knjiga je cist dokaz moje tvrdoglavosti. Vec sam jednom odustajao od nje... stigao do 120-te... ostavio... posle par meseci nastavio... shvatio da nemam pojma sta se desava u onih 120 strana i krenuo od pocetka... Da mi, na moru, nije ponestalo knjiga sigurno je nebih zavrsio.

Ukratko: Ovo je prica o Bespucu (gradu negde na Marsu) i njegovim stanovnicima, od samog osnivanja i sve do njegove propasti.

Kjiga je pisana kao zbirka dogadjaja vezanih za grad, stim sto svaka glava knjige moze da se p
...more
Nicatel
Recensione all'edizione italiana (editrice Zona42, anno 2014)

Dopo il mattone del “Fiume degli dei” mi ero ripromesso di non leggere più nulla di Ian McDonald. Invece, dopo pochi mesi, eccomi a prendere in mano questo “Desolation Road”, la sua opera prima del 1988: un po’ perché l’ambientazione “bradburyana” su Marte mi ispirava, e un po’ per contribuire al coraggio di “Zona 42”, la neonata casa editrice di fantascienza che esordisce con questo libro.
Devo dire che non sono rimasto deluso. Il para
...more
Salomon Xeno
Una lettura sorprendente e multisfaccettata, ora delicata ora intensa. Il paragone con Cronache Marziane di Bradbury nasce spontaneo, ma non esaurisce la bellezza di questo romanzo.

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25376
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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