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Red Planet Blues

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  1,791 ratings  ·  322 reviews
Narrator Alex Lomax, the only private eye on Mars, tracks guilty among failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and rich transfers who upload their minds into immortal android bodies. Clues and a journal lead to murders of Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly, founders of the Great Martian Fossil Rush, and their treasure. Expanded “Identity Theft”.
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published March 26th 2013 by Ace (first published March 2013)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Silly Parody of a Detective Noir, Except it Takes Place on Mars

This seems to be a (partially) tongue-in-check sendup of the classic noir detective novel, like
The Big Sleep.

Except that it takes place on Mars, so there are some (equally uninspiring) SF elements. Like people transferring to bionic bodies to live forever. Yawn. Nothing new here.

Some of this is mildly funny...

People are competing to find a cache of valuable Martian fossils. The women are all drop dead gorgeous. The men are all macho
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was so excited when I got my advanced proof of this book in the mail, courtesy of a goodreads firstreads giveaway, I took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. Unfortunately my excitement didn't last long after I started reading it. I admit that it took me somewhere between 150 and 200 pages to finally realize I was approaching the book all wrong. I'm in the middle of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Saga, and this is a very different type of science fiction. Basically it's like Dirk Gently on ...more
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
i wish Goodreads had a star for "i liked it, but...".

this book is a gentle satire of noir, sf, and all things covered in red dust. it is stuffed full of atrocious puns--real groaners--that you just have to laugh at, else you'd toss the book into the nearest incinerator. it also has a zillion interesting and wonderful ideas, many thoughts on identity, interplanetary travel, and frontier life. it's well-plotted and the characters, if not particularly deep (it is satire), are at least consistent in
This was a shockingly bad book. It didn't work on any level and I'm really appalled that his editors let it go out like this. The story is super weak, it read like bad fanfic, and the level of sexism in this book is simply off the charts.

Look, I admit it didn't start off good for me. This guy is so full of himself, he had me completely irritated before I even started the book. As usual, he went on and on about all of the awards he's won in his acknowledgements and in his bio at the end of the bo
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Red Planet Blues: Take equal parts Raymond Chandler's noir detective novels, Robert Service's poetry of the Yukon gold rush, and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, add a generous splash of The Road to Utopia, shake it all up in Rob Sawyer's noggin and chill in the Yukon for a few months. Decant onto pulp paper, and knock the concoction back like cold Sarsaparilla in a dirty glass.

I'll have a full review of Red Planet Blues in SFRevu's April issue (

A very enjoyable read. Please see my review at my blog, The Next Fifty, at:
Vincent Stoessel
I totally get it. It's a mashup of 2 genres I love, Noir detective and Science Fiction... on Mars!
I had every expectation that I was going to love this book. Maybe they were a bit too high, dreams of a Martian Blade Runner type of experience perhaps but this was definitely not the case. As a pure crime/detective thriller it barely holds itself together. By the end I was forcing myself to suspend disbelief just so I could get to the end. As a SciFI novel it does OK. I won't give out spoilers abou
Lianne Burwell
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
I managed to get a hold of one of the ARCs of Red Planet Blues that were handed out at the World Fantasy Convention in Toronto this year (part of the big bag-o-books that every attendee received), and had to read it almost immediately.

Robert Sawyer is pretty much *the* name in Canadian SF these days. Red Planet Blues (originally titled The Great Martian Fossil Race) takes a previously published story (Identity Theft) as the first quarter of the book, and then continues the story.

The story in que
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Red Planet Blues by Robert J Sawyer is a detective yarn, ya see. Coming in with a hard-hitting tale, like a wild baseball aimed at your face. Its setting, Mars, sand so red you wonder if the planet coughed up its secret after the pummeling it must have received from Jupiter. A deal gone bad?

Excuse my poorly imitated detective noir style comments. I promise you that Mr Sawyer does it better than me. And that’s what’s fun with this book, it’s a story that “pays homage to the great hard-boiled det
P.A. Baines
Jun 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
I really, really wanted to like this book. The premise was intriguing and the idea of combining an old-school detective story with sci-fi sounded like fun. Sadly, I was reminded why it is I don't read much sci-fi. There were a few laughs, but not enough to keep my interest. By the end, I felt as if I had just wasted a week. A very disappointing effort from an award-winning novelist. I was expecting a lot more.

What I liked:
- The humour was terrific in places, helped by the laconic drawl of the na
Jun 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi, mystery, book-club
Red Planet Blues was entertaining enough, and a quick read, but it never really excelled at anything, and therefore never came to life for me. It also didn't end up being enough of a rip-roaring fun space adventure to make me overlook its mediocrity and enjoy the ride. In the end, it felt like a long string of action scenes that weren't keeping my attention, and I just wanted to finish the book and move on to something else. I think that Red Planet Blues might make an entertaining B-movie, but i ...more
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The first quarter of this novel consists of Sawyer's 2006 noir-style novella "Identity Theft", complete with the conclusion of the story. And then the next chapter starts with "Two Months Later". The setting is in a crime-ridden and down-on-its-heels city dome on Mars, some 50 years after The Great Fossil Rush that ended something like the film "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." The main character is a Humphrey Bogart-type with a backstory of unspoken pain, who takes odd jobs as a private inves ...more
[Name Redacted]
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, sci-fi, futurity, noir
A fun, solid sci-fi detective novel set in a future in which fossils have been discovered on Mars and human consciousnesses can be transplanted into immortal machines. It feels a bit cluttered and haphazard, what with the fusion of classic noir, Canadian gold rush, paleontology and Asimovian sci-fi elements, but that odd, incongruous melange is also what makes it so engaging. The protagonist is definitely not a GOOD man, but he's got a sense of honor and obligation to his clients which makes him ...more
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: completed
Classic Science Fiction with a touch of a private eye novel slammed together--- filled with clever Science Fiction ideas (Why do people want to go to Mars? For the fossils, of course... None of this mining for minerals-- but ancient Martian fauna fossils are worth megabucks on Earth) People transferring to new robotic bodies that don't need to breathe or eat, but have superhuman strength! The big red dome...

On top of that-- enough dead bodies to fill a Humphrey Bogart movie... a Private Eye (th
Dec 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Bottom line, this is a solid average work for Sawyer. Don't mean that as an insult, just an informed opinion. I recommend this as a fun, quick read; however, you will not find the depth and characterization that we come to expect from Mr Sawyer. This reads a little bit like a average Larry Niven story.

A common theme is present, consciousness. The ideas presented are interesting, but they are not as integral as I would have liked.

The "gumshoe" aspect of the character was charming. Imagine Phili
Kurt Springs
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review was first published on Kurt's Frontier.


Alex Lomax is the only private eye on Mars. A fan of old private eye films, he tracks the guilty among Mars’s inhabitants: failed prospectors, corrupt cops, and rich transfers. People with enough money can transfer their conscious minds into an immortal, android bodies. This is an age where anything can be replicated. Much that was once valuable is now worthless. Then Simon Weingarten and Denny O’Reilly began the Great Mars Fossil Rush.
As an homage to noir fiction transplanted to a future Mars colony this book works very well, and that is also the problem with it. The author has perhaps cleaved a little bit too closely to noir conventions, particularly in his narrative style and characterizations which have been overused to the point of being cliches. Thus, we have a world weary protagonist even if the world in question is Mars rather than Earth. The dames are either in trouble or just trouble (with a capital T). The antagonis ...more
Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Solid mix of noir and SF with captivating narrative voice and setting. An excellent read.
May 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Hard boiled PI meets sci fiction. This book felt like it was trying too hard to be cynical and smug but wasn't funny enough to pull it off for me. I didn't hate it but would not have read it except for book club. Overall, meh.
Jun 08, 2013 rated it liked it
i am a big Sawyer fan. let's get that straight right from the get-go. he is my guilty pleasure .... you know how some people say they can't eat just one chip? well i can never just read a page or two -or even a chapter- if i have a Sawyer novel on the go it's an all-out binge reading session until i have consumed the wh000000le thing.

given how many sci-fi novels he has written, it was definitely time for him to shake it up a bit, so i thought it was smart of him to take on the noir gumshoe dete
I just won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I'm quite excited and will hopefully receive the book in a few weeks.

I'm actually a huge fan of Robert J. Sawyer. Several years ago, I switched from reading mostly fantasy, to mostly Science Fiction. Part of that reason was Robert J. Sawyer. I ended up picking up Illegal Alien and I was hooked immediately. After finishing it, I went out and found as many of his books as I could. Since then, I've been trying to find more and more Sci-Fi that questions
Allen Adams
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it

There’s a wonderful Raymond Chandler-meets-Ray Bradbury vibe that permeates “Red Planet Blues.” Sawyer’s Mars is as realistically realized as his settings always are; no one creates a plausible near-future quite like he does. There’s a richness of detail – particularly in the descriptions of New Klondike – that is particularly engaging. From the shady dive bars to the spaceships to the sweeping Martian plains, Sawyer paints a vivid picture.

It’s a genre mas
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone that likes science fiction and mystery
This book was great! It was like a Western/Noir/Science Fiction crossover, which might seem like too much but it worked out pretty good.

I've read "Flashforward" before, and I didn't really like it (I thought it started dragging for too long), so I was scared that this book might turn out the same. Clearly, it didn't, and I stayed up till midnight reading.

Stylewise, you can really tell where the original novella ends and the book begins. It's almost as if the novella is the original and the rest
May 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I love scifi. And I love hardboiled lit. And when the two work well together, wow! My favorite Jonathan lethem book is still his first, gun with occasional music. Another that I like is the automatic detective by A Lee Martinez.

This however, is weak on both counts. The novella that this grew from starts the book, and the mystery is not very compelling. And it's very clear where the novella ends and the second part begins, making this really just two related novellas instead an actual seamless n
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
One and a half stars - my least favorite of Sawyer's books. As others note in more detail, basically a Chandleresque (although not as well done) pulp detective novel, set on Mars - but frankly just as easily set in Gold Rush California or Alaska. The only science fiction element is the concept of moving consciousness/identity into android bodies - which has been much better done elsewhere and which, surprisingly, Sawyer does a particularly poor job of exploring here. I saw surprisingly because i ...more
Oct 20, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf, canadian
I liked most of it but the style bothered me. I don't think a sexist noir feel blends well with futuristic sci-fi. I kept being too disappointed that the main character was a sexist jerk only interested in a woman's boobies. Surely by that year, with so many people transferring to robot bodies, that sort of thing would be left behind? Which raises an important issue not covered in the book, and something I'd like to see written about: gender and transferring. Why would there be need for sex-spec ...more
Jun 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
The idea of this book is fantastic. It's a gritty 1940's detective novel, set in the future on a frontier town on Mars. Imagine Dashiell Hammett's writing style, on a planet with 1/3 the Earth's gravity, with 1% of the atmosphere, where half the characters are synthetic and therefore very difficult to kill, and where everyone is out to make a mint prospecting for fossils of old, long-dead extraterrestrial life.


There are a lot of references, both to old detective movies, and to classic sci-f
Chadwick Ginther
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've been waiting for this book for years. After reading Sawyer's novella
"Identity Theft" I couldn't wait for a return to his vision of a wild, Klondike Mars where the rush is to discover fossils, not gold.

Full of rough and tumble good guys, double dealing, and femme fatales, Sawyer melds noir tropes skillfully with his future tech and archaeology. The protagonist, Alex Lomax, is himself a fan of Earth's noir period of film and fiction, and so there is a slightly meta quality to the novel that
Jun 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first ten chapters of this book are really his "Identity Theft" story - so naturally these are awesome. The rest of the book takes place two months afterwards with the same characters. Recently (5 years or so) Sawyer had lost some of his magic to storytelling and wonderful characters. The book is a slight turn back to the the stuff we love about Sawyer's stories. He again takes a common theme - noir - and mixes it well with science fiction - living on Mars with transfers (human conscious and ...more
A rather surprisingly weak new book by Sawyer. Too much action, too much complexity - but it seemed like it would make a pretty good graphic novel or perhaps movie. Still the variation on upload/consciousness transferring was interesting. Basically a murder mystery on Mars but kind of a silly one. And I was never bought in on any of the characters.
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Robert J. Sawyer is one of Canada's best known and most successful science fiction writers. He is the only Canadian (and one of only 7 writers in the world) to have won all three of the top international awards for science fiction: the 1995 Nebula Award for The Terminal Experiment, the 2003 Hugo Award for Hominids, and the 2006 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan.
Robert Sawyer grew up in

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