Crystal Starr Light's Reviews > Mars

Mars by Ben Bova
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's review
Nov 12, 2014

it was ok
bookshelves: science-fiction, 2014-owned-challenge, audiobook, buddy-reads, big-heap-of-meh, hello-my-name-is-mary-sue, massive-disappointment, so-boring-it-s-boring, you-did-not-just-go-there
Recommended to Crystal Starr Light by: Child Crystal Starr Light
Read from October 29 to November 10, 2014

Bullet Review:

What an utter disappointment. Childhood Me is sitting in a corner, sobbing. Adult Me is just totally amused at how such an interesting concept can go so wrong in so many different ways.

For people who think all scifi sucks, that it's just a bunch of robots wandering around technobabbling and being hideously racist and sexist, this is not going to make any new believers.

2 stars, and all those stars are for the scenes on Mars that deal with MARS not the automatons masquerading as explorers.

You better'd BELIEVE this will have a full review - I've owned the paperback copy for over 4 years and have dreamed of landing on Mars for over a decade.

Full Review:

Jaime Waterman is half-Navajo and full renowned geologist heading as one of a dozen explorers to Mars. The international team lands on Mars, explores, makes way for Jaime "Marty Stu" to call all the shots, comes down with a STUPID disease, and then gets stuck in a crater - perfect for Jaime Stu to come and save the day.

My childhood dream was to go to Mars. I dreamed that I would be an engineer on a first Mars mission (I think my goal was to have landed THIS YEAR). I came up with my first words for my first landing, imagined who my teammates would be, planned out what foreign language I would learn (Russian, of course)...

And then I grew up and realized that things change when you grow up. There is a part of me that would still LOVE to be the first to step foot on Mars, but given the decimation of the US Space Program, that dream is even further into the future.

This is what I used to dream.

So as a last vestige of the wide-eyed, imaginative girl that I once was, I bought this book. A friend recommended it as well, so I bumped it up the list. And then I nabbed an audiobook at the library and squeezed it into my packed reading schedule.

Let's imagine this graphically, shall we? I have compiled a TOTALLY LEGIT and SCIENTIFICALLY OBJECTIVE graph for this experiment:

Let T= Percentage through Book, R=Embarrassing Racism, X=Sexualization of every female, and S=Stupidity. Then if f(T)=E=Excitement for book, the formula is approximately:


Or in words:

"I hate Crystal Starr Light and want her to lose her effing mind!"

This book embraces most of the stereotypes people get when they think of science fiction in general, hard science fiction specifically.

Racism? Check.
Sexist characters? Check.
Robot characters? Check.
Male character who can do no wrong and always gets his way? Check.
Science and technology for science and technology's state? Check.
Politicians are BAD, science is GOOD? Check.
Strawmen politicians and reporters for the scientists to show how science is good? Check.

About the only thing it is missing is Little Green Men parading into the picture - but this is HARD scifi, not that wimpy soft stuff that has woowoo science and humanoid aliens.

I REALLY REALLY wanted to love this book. And I DID love it when Bova shut up about his awful, stupid characters, their awful, stupid drama and looked at the science and world of Mars. GREAT stuff, completely captivating. But if to get to that stuff it means I have to spend even an HOUR listening to Jaime call himself a "Red Man" or laugh about the "privilege" being a Native American gives him or comment on how childish Joanna looks all the while wanting to seriously bone her - UMKAY, I'm getting OFF this bus KTHXBAI.

Where Bova fails is the characters. They are weak, badly written, and dull. From Jaime Waterman to Ilona to Tony Reed to the Russian astronauts with difficult to spell last names (SORRY PEEPS, I listened on audiobook and have no ear for spelling out American names, much less Russian ones), all the characters are about as interesting as...hmmm, I would say a Martian rock, but those suckers are fascinating. How about coffee grounds? They have one note, one character and that's it.

And what's worse, when Bova attempts to create diversity, much headbanging ensues. I would applaud his non-white characters, his attempt to include women if they weren't SO BLAND! If they actually FELT like non-white, non-American characters, instead of whiteboards painted with green and yellow and orange paint! If the women weren't all grouped into whores or madonnas.

And Jaime - God, I hate Jaime. He's our protagonist, which means everything he does is perfect and wonderful. He thinks there is something to be discovered in the Grand Canyon of Mars? The WHOLE MISSION PLAN must be changed so they can investigate - who cares if Patel has other plans that he has spent DECADES on, nope, gotta follow Jaime's intuition! Jaime can sleep with Ilona, but Eddie sleeping around, even though they aren't in a committed relationship? WHORE!

The other grating part of the story is the ludicrous "Mars virus" that the crew catches.

HINT: It's not a virus.
Another hint: The meteor shower that happens earlier in the book is the cause of this "virus" - a twist that MIGHT have been clever had the disease NOT been one that takes at least 3 months to actually show signs! And even then, it's nowhere near as deathly as is shown in the book!

As for the plot: well, it's dated. A bunch of late 80's/early 90's politics crammed into a scifi book. It was mildly amusing in places, but not very believable or well-done. After awhile, I just wanted it to be OVER.

And of course, the only female high-ranking official is a cutthroat b!tch. (I wouldn't have a problem with this if there was more than one female politician - women can be b!tches too after all!)

This was narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, who had read the "Something Wicked This Way Comes" that I was greatly underwhelmed with. The good news is that he didn't completely bore me with this book as he had with the previous (Obviously I don't care for Bradbury in audiobook form). The bad news is, his accents are silly, and in one case, he gives a character a Russian accent when the text EXPLICITLY STATES that that character had no discernible accent. FAIL. Still, he does have a soothing voice, and it's not completely grating to listen to.

What is most disappointing is just how mediocre this book is. From a science standpoint, everything is sound and very probable. (Now politically, I sincerely doubt the crew would look this multi-national, but that's just me.) The subject is fascinating. It's the characters and plot that just flounder and flail. Boring. Racist. Sexist. Badly written. I will not be returning to Mars or any other planetary location with Ben Bova anytime in the future.
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Reading Progress

10/29/2014 marked as: currently-reading
10/29/2014 "This has that Stefan guy who narrated "Something Wicked This Way Comes". Time to test to see if it is narrator that makes the book boring or the book itself..."
1.0% ""Being a red-man hasn't hurt you with NASA and those other government whites, has it? Equal opportunity and all that." *blinks* Well, now, Al Waterman is a bit of a racist, isn't he?"
2.0% ""Here on Mars, we are the alien invaders."" 3 comments
3.0% "The nationality choices feels very 80's/90's - two Americans, a Russian, an Englishman, someone from Latin America, and then the Other one (Hebrew, I'm guessing in this case). I'm very positive that nowadays, this lineup would look VERY different."
5.0% "First foot on the planet Mars. Jaime is doing that "Indian thing". Again, this was said by one of the characters, but it makes me cringe."
10.0% "If I were Joanna and I learned that people were trying to make things easy because of my daddy, I'd be more than a little pissed. Just sayin'."
10.0% ""A part of Jaime's mind was registering the fact that Joanna was beautiful. Her figure was certainly adult enough, not even the bulky sweater could hide that." F@#$ me. We can't focus on how people are babying her to appease her dad and can't let her go through training on her own merit; nope, she's a set of boobs for Jaime to drool over. F@#$ me." 2 comments
12.0% "So, more British people are gay because of boy-only schools. O.o Also, the way Tony Reed and Haufman treat women, like slabs of meat to be sexed up...

13.0% ""Joanna still looked almost like a child to Jaime...but in form-fitting coveralls, her body was not child-like. He felt a stirring inside himself..."

" 1 comment
13.0% ""...and snug whip-cord jeans that emphasized her hourglass figure."

" 1 comment
13.0% ""Reed admired the way her blouse moved, even though it was buttoned up to the neck." Ah, HELLO THERE SEXISM HOW ARE YOU??!!

14.0% "So women are just supposed to "handle" a man's unwanted sexual overtures - not like the space organization will try to regulate this. Not sure whether to be mad at Bova or just the fact that this is REAL, that women are expected to be able to "handle" men's unwanted advances. Did NOT expect a hard scifi book to get my feminist self into a frenzy." 5 comments
15.0% "Definitely prefer the sections on Mars; they tend not to be filled with sexist crap."
16.0% ""Words are important, he realized, especially in a nation ruled by its media.""
16.0% ""She must have been a beauty when she was younger...and thinner." F@#$ you, Jaime.

20.0% ""The second rule of the inveterate traveler: never pass a toilet without using it." OK, *THAT* was pretty hilarious - and true!"
22.0% "I love that so many of the characters are non-white - and yet, sometimes it feels like they are just Black or Native American in name (or stereotyped). I like how there is more than 1 woman and a woman who actually gets onto the Mars team - but I'm sad that out of a team of 12, only 3 are women and one is giggly and naive." 6 comments
25.0% "Can't Joanna's father protect himself, especially from "female distraction"? What about her life? What if her father WANTED some "female distraction"?"
25.0% ""And little Joanna is Aphrodite, wouldn't you say? She's got the right figure for a sex goddess hasn't she?" Why the F@#$ are these guys talking about which goddess their coworkers are?!" 1 comment
29.0% "I liked that Cmmdr Li spoke with the men and told them to behave themselves, though honestly he should have had the conversation with BOTH sexes - women are JUST as sexual as men, and it's not right for them to get all creepy on the men."
30.0% "I LOVE how the narrator gives Mikhail a distinct Russian accent and then reads that Mikhail spoke with no accent at all! HA HA!"
31.0% ""When she raised her voice, it took on the urgency of a dentist's drill." Wow, what a flattering way to talk about the first female VP! I guess I'm happy that not every woman is a dipshit like Joanna, but I wonder if similar descriptors would have been used had VP been male." 2 comments
33.0% "Here's a serious question about future long-duration space missions: would astronauts be basically forced to use birth control? I can't think of anything worse than an OOPS baby on a 2 year mission to Mars."
33.0% ""The rules saying nothing against f@#$ing, Jaime. F@#$ me, Red Man, and f@#$ me.

34.0% "Good f@#$ing goddess, Tony Reed and Jaime Waterman are fighting about who's f@#$ing who and when and how many times.

41.0% "The women are calling bullshit that only men are pilots on the mission. HELLYEAH!!!"
43.0% ""I will not have Jaime turned into an Indian." Uh, Mom? Jaime *IS* half Navajo - no changing that!"
49.0% "Well, hello there, Strawman Reporter! How good of you to stop by so that our author can proselytize about the merits of Mars travel (not that I don't agree with him in some aspects, mind you) and show off his super smart characters with their highly superior POVs. Of course, after seeing Reza Aslan interviewed by Fox..."
52.0% "Marty Stu - I MEAN! - Jaime Waterman is all Poopy Pants because everyone won't drop the mission schedule and take up his private cause to investigate what is probably a natural rock formation (but he's convinced it's like pueblos). How much longer before Marty - I MEAN! - Poopy Pants - I MEAN! - Jaime gets his own way?"
55.0% "The dome is losing pressure. Finally, we get some drama that isn't Marty Stu Poopy Pants whinging about how he's the Protagonist who doesn't get to change the rule because he's the resident Marty Stu."
60.0% "OK, THAT pisses me off - not at the author or the flat characters. Jaime is flunked because of professor whim - may be the first sign that being Navajo is something more than window dressing that the characters bring up to make the corny "Red Man on the Red Planet" "joke"."
63.0% "Uh, no, Marty Stu, you WOULDN'T accept a "No"; when people told you you couldn't explore the Grand Canyon, you whinged until you got your own way. So STFU and stop trying to act like you are just like everyone else."
63.0% "This section revealing Tony's backstory:

" 1 comment
64.0% "Joanna: Madonna, innocent, naive; Ilona: Whore, sexual, manipulative; Monique: maternal, maybe not virgin but certainly not whore, but not sexual at all (she's too old and fat *eyeroll*); VP: manipulative, selfish b!tch. Edith: closer to whore than madonna as she will have carefree sex; manipulative, selfish b!tch. The women in Bova's Mars: Only 5 when there are about 2 dozen equally "diverse" men."
66.0% "One of the Russians heaps compliments on how Awesome Marty Stu Waterman is for saving another's life, and how much of a loser the other dude is. Because Waterman is now Jesus. At least the pretense is gone?" 2 comments
67.0% "OF COURSE Marty Stu Waterman is now the leader. The only question is why did it take so long for him to bully his way to a leadership position?"
72.0% "Seriously? Brumado wants to sleep with Edith? After all these years of Joanna keeping him away from the wimmens so he can focus on "his job" and NOW he wants Waterman's girl - a REPORTER no less? I would NOT be thinking of sexing a reporter up - conflict of interest???"
73.0% ""Li wondered why the physician bothered to lacquer her nails. She was not an especially good-looking woman, he thought, rather plain in fact, with a pug-nose and overly thick lips. Her figure was nondescript." How about this: F@#$ you and BTW:

73.0% ""Has she decked herself out for me? Li wondered. Or is she trying to impress our dashing cosmonaut and astronaut?...As long as she doesn't make any problems for me, I won't interfere." How about she LIKES to wear makeup and look pretty and

75.0% "People are getting sick, probably because they are racist, sexist, horny @$$holes." 5 comments
77.0% "Dust storm time! When I started reading this, I was somewhat expecting most of the challenges to be those of the dust storm/difficulties on a CO2-rich planet, millions of miles away from home, not out-dated political maneuvering amongst boring cardboard characters. So this? I'm OK with it."
79.0% "I was really hoping that they wouldn't find life and that Waterman was going to be proved wrong and a moron and a jerk for modifying the mission plan and cutting into another person's research. But Marty Stu Reigns again. Can't have our Marty Stu proven not to be Omnipotent and Awesome, after all."
81.0% ""Connors and Ilona are spending a long time in the lab. Is she up to her old tricks again? ...she's like the good old Post Office, never rain nor storm nor dark of night will stop her." Seriously?! She's very sick and YOU think she's horny and having sex???!

85.0% "So you guys have been sick the last 3000 hours. You wanna start doing something about it or continue flailing?"
88.0% "More flailing. Mission is threatened to be canceled. And now Yang is wondering what Tony Reed has done to keep himself from getting sick. Apparently, taking methamphetamines keeps you from getting Mars Virus"
88.0% "Scurvy?! All this flailing and sickness and it's SCURVY?!?!?!!

90.0% "Jaime can have as many flings as he wants, but Edith can't. Even though they aren't even in a committed relationship." 2 comments
93.0% "Does ANYONE in this book have a brain? ANYONE?! Maybe the Martian rocks do, the Martian lichen, but out of dozens of so-called professionals, everyone acts like a moron.

" 1 comment
11/10/2014 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Somewhere, sometime long ago, I tried to read a Ben Bova book or two and DNF'd it very quickly. I don't even recall why at this point (other than that I was probably bored), but obviously my taste was good, based on your comments in your review. :)

Crystal Starr Light If any of his other books are like this, then I'm done. I like things called "characters" who act like "people" instead of mannequins in costumes.

He just needs to stop making potentially interesting books with pretty covers; I'll admit, that cover of Mars totally tricked me. But I've learned my lesson!!

message 3: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Stalides Yes! Great cover. You should write a review about the cover!

Crystal Starr Light Mars: A Review of the Cover Art

Mars. The Majestic, Enigmatic Sister to Earth. What mysteries hide in her red soil? What secrets are buried in Valles Marineris or hidden underneath the Polar Caps or nestled in the caldera of Olympus Mons?

The sister planet, Mars, calls to Earth - and that's exactly what the cover of Ben Bova's Mars does to the reader. Although the cover portrays a wildly inaccurate representation of the sun (seriously, the sun doesn't appear that large on EARTH and Earth is 2/3rds the distance to the sun), it beckons to the explorer buried deep in humankind. Look at the pair of astronauts, perched on the edge of the precipice, looking out to the setting sun. They stand, not as conquerors, but as admirers. Note their stance, the limp hanging of their arms from their bodies as they watch the familiar sun set on a foreign land.

Note also the enormity of their surroundings in comparison with their tiny figures. Even the man-made rover cannot compare to the size of the canyon! One word comes to mind when staring at the cover: Captivating. The visage of Mars, the site of two humble explorers paying homage on its red surface, is enough to cause the potential reader to do the very same thing - before eagerly snapping up the book from the shelf and purchasing it.

To readers who are doing that: DON'T. Just rip the cover off and take it home with you.

message 5: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen Great review, CSL. :)

message 6: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen Also, amazing review of the cover art.

In short, YOU are amazing. :)

Crystal Starr Light Awwww, garsh, thank you, Carmen! You are amazing too!!

message 8: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Stalides Holy cow! Best cover art review ever! You realize you will need to include a cover art review for all your reviews. By the way how's your NaNo book coming along? Methinks review lengths are...revealing :)

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Extra likes for the cover review!

Crystal Starr Light Why thank you! It was fun to do a cover art review, though I wouldn't make a habit of it!

As for NaNo, it died on Day 1. You know, like your New Years' Resolutions?

No Ideas + No Inspiration + Keep Forgetting to Write When I Get Home = No NaNo :(

message 11: by Kat Stark (new)

Kat Stark This review is absolutely amazing.

message 12: by Karla (new)

Karla That's been my experience with Nano this month too! Writing something that will just sit there uselessly < Reading books that take up physical space

Crystal Starr Light I had big plans to write for NaNo this year, but I swear, every day, I get home and I'm like CHORES! Or time to RUN! Or I want to crochet! Writing a half-assed novel got shoved to the bottom of the list.

While I'd love to publish a novel, I think that's another dream that got pushed into the future.

Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Well, when you need a beta reader or proofreader let me know. ;)

message 15: by Kat Stark (new)

Kat Stark I thinl we all feel that way at some point. I've wrote three stories but my problem is motivarion and actually finish one. I usually get bored or start to hate the idea so I move onto another and another and...nothing ever gets don't because I never think its good enough. I like to think that I'm reviewing my own work...probably not a good thing to do but when it does happen, I want to put out the best that I can do

message 16: by Kat Stark (new)

Kat Stark ignore all the errors *sigh* I'm on my stupid phone and the app doesn't let me edit :/

Crystal Starr Light I will, Tadiana!

Kat, first off, 187% agree about the app. It's gotten better, but I HATE HATE HATE how you can't edit.

Right now, it's ideas. I have no inspiration of anything to write and what ideas I had have died - like you mentioned! It's like, "I HATE THIS and want to run away from it!"

Next time the bug hits, I need to just WRITE.

message 18: by Karla (last edited Nov 11, 2014 08:37AM) (new)

Karla I also put out a HUGE amount of writing when I was doing fanfic. I kinda feel like I've already scratched that writing itch? IDK. As I've gotten older, the ability to cobble my thoughts together coherently has taken a hit because of other RL concerns. Getting that "in the zone" time to do any productive writing has gotten smaller and smaller to the point where it's well nigh negligible. And I've got a lot of other things I enjoy doing. When I was in my early 20s, it was nothing but writing and a bit of reading.

Also having the whole month be writing month seems self-defeating. When it gets here, I'm not in the mood/something crazy happens/whatever else derails the project.

ETA: yeah, so when you want to write, write. November be damned. :P

message 19: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Smithers Yes, I agree with all that you say, except that the narrator's voice is awesome. I am letting him read to me often, but more Bova books keep showing up on the list...and I just want Rudnicki's sweet, sweet lies in my ear...

message 20: by Martinw (new)

Martinw I just looked up this book I read ages ago and stumbled over your review. I liked it a little more than you, but to my defense: I was young and I needed the money.

Anyway, I have seen that you have "The Martian" in your shelves, but did not rate it yet. Have you read it? I guess you might like it. A little nerdy, with very much science, a bit of MacGyver and much Robinson Crusoe, but it could be right up your alley.

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