Warren Watts's Reviews > Moving Mars

Moving Mars by Greg Bear
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's review
Apr 15, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction
Read in July, 2005

As a fairly regular reader of science-fiction, I had seen many of Greg Bear’s novels on the shelves at my local library. I can be rather narrow-minded when it comes to exploring new authors. I vaguely recall having read at least one other Greg Bear novel; so long ago I don’t even remember the title. My local library has a very limited selection of science fiction available and I had pretty much exhausted all the novels by authors I regularly read. I’m glad I did choose the book; it was an enjoyable and thought provoking read.

The novel centers around the life of Casseia Majumdar, at a point in future history when colonies have long been established on the Moon, and the colonies established on Mars are at a crucial turning point in their development. It is the mid 22nd century, and the Martian colonies are just beginning to flex their muscles. All of the existing technology on Mars is of Earth origin, but Mars has begun to develop it’s own new technologies; technologies that go beyond what humankind thought possible. Into this world Casseia is born.

Written as if it were her memoir, the novel takes the reader through Casseia’s life, chronicling her life as she grows from timid college student to confident world leader. As her life story unfolds, the reader is exposed to Casseia’s world, a world where the Earth’s economy dominates both the Moon and Mars’ economies. Casseia finds herself at the focal point of the Martian colonies’ desire for unification and independence, devoting her entire life to what seems to many as an unobtainable dream.

The plot moved slowly at first, the author taking at least the first half of the book’s 400 plus pages to fully outline and develop the solar system’s political system as well as a completely credible Martian archeological history. The solar system’s political system and economy has the earth at its center, interacting with the economies of Mars (a loosely affiliated group of fiercely independent colonies) and the Moon (whose economy the Earth almost completely controls).
Mars’s archeological history is detailed and complete, a rich fossil history of plant and animal life that many scientists suspect may not be dead but simply dormant.

As the plot progresses, the two histories are threaded together to create a very real backdrop on which the story can unfold. Although this extensive background history slows the progression of the plot until well into the novel, it is necessary groundwork for the story’s climax and eventual conclusion.

Moving Mars took me at least half again as long to read as a book of it’s length usually does, primarily because of the sizable portion of the novel devoted to “situation development”. I didn’t find the book an easy read, but the rich deep story development and the beautifully constructed conclusion made the read well worthwhile.

The science of Bear’s future was also seamless and quite plausible. The reader is drawn into a future filled with magnetic levitation trains that crisscross the Martian surface; self-aware “thinker” computers are utilized as super intelligent advisors; implanted intelligence or knowledge “enhancements” are routine. A future science called nanotechnology, utilizing molecule-sized machines to build, inspect or repair, is commonplace. All this science and more are woven into the fabric of the story in such a way that it invisibly strengthens and reinforces the plot.

To me, Moving Mars was an exploration into the “growing pains” a budding planetary colony might face as it grew from mere colony to independent intity. The problems it might experience as it sought to “break the bonds” that bound it to the Earth’s political system and economy.

Characters were there to humanize the drama. I didn’t often empathize with the characters. Took on more of a historical re-enactment sort of flavor. The characters did come alive for me, but I felt as if they were sort of peripheral to the future history being told.

If you prefer a fast paced novel, Moving Mars may not be for you. The book takes a long time to come to its climax. Ultimately, I enjoyed the book. I felt that the time taken to lay out all the material and the rich tapestry it created when woven all together made the read much more enjoyable in the end. If you enjoy a good thought provoking novel, I heartily recommend Moving Mars.

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