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The Martian Obelisk

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  455 ratings  ·  91 reviews
A story about an architect on Earth commissioned to create (via long distance) a masterwork with materials from the last abandoned Martian colony, a monument that will last thousands of years longer than Earth, which is dying.
ebook, 15 pages
Published July 19th 2017 by
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  455 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This is a 2017 Hugo nominated SF short story, free to read online here at Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

In another tale that explores human choices in the face of apocalyptic events, Susannah Li-Langford is an eighty year old architect who has spent the last seventeen years working on a master project. While civilization on Earth is in the final stages of collapse due to a combination of global warming, drug-resistant bacteria and other disasters, Susannah ― with the help an
Apr 14, 2018 rated it really liked it

It was not supposed to happen like this. As a child she’d been promised a swift conclusion: duck and cover and nuclear annihilation. And if not annihilation, at least the nihilistic romance of a gun-toting, leather-clad, fight-to-the-death anarchy.

That hadn’t happened either.

Things had just gotten worse, and worse still, and people gave up. Not everyone, not all at once—there was no single event marking the beginning of the end—but there was a sense of inevitability about the direction history h
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Included in my roundup of favorite summer 2017 shorts:

The Martian Obelisk is probably my favorite short story of the year from one of SF’s most essential writers. Nagata’s typically pessimistic vision of the future finds human civilization on Earth dying, and attempts to colonize Mars having recently met with insurmountable disaster. Susannah is an artist living on Earth, remotely operating Martian construction equipment to build the titular structure as
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
On a dying Earth, an architect builds a monument remotely on Mars to honor the Earth civilization, now dying. But an unexpected event on Mars is forcing her to take a decision: what is more important, the short life of a family or the perennial symbol of the monument?

I failed to grasp the emotion of the choice, therefore it was just an ok read for me.

Can be found here:
Paul  Perry
This excellent short story is a meditation on art and the deep future viewed from the perspective of a finite existence, of what we can hope to leave to a future that may not exist, yet with a glint of hope and humanity.

It is a wonderfully constructed short story, cramming depth and meaning into so few words. I can't quite give it a higher score, however, as the prose itself is no more than OK, and the dialogue between the two characters rather on the stagey side.
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
On a dying earth, architect Susannah Li-Langford designed and is remotely constructing a monument on Mars, using AIs. A towering white spire that will stand for many years after earth dies. Everything is going well till a vehicle from a failed Mars colony approaches the construction site.
There's tension in this story as Susannah tries to figure out what is going on and what she will do about it.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: short-freebie
Very gently flowing, but it kind of had no purpose? Let me attempt to explain. Humanity was doomed, but was slowly dying. The end of the story yields up some hope, but the story tells you it's pretty much false hope, so what's the point of the story? And does a family of three REALLY need EVERY tile used for the obelisk? Can't they just use some and yet still make a shorter obelisk? 3, I liked it, but wasn't that impressed, stars.
A 2018 Hugo finalist for Best Short Story

Earth is dying. The colonization of Mars has failed. Mankind is coming to an end.
Two 80+ year olds spent the better part of the last two decades building (remotely from Earth) an obelisk on Mars. A last monument marking the existence of mankind. And also a purpose for them to keep going when everything else was falling to pieces.
Then suddenly there’s an anomaly sighted on Mars. And everything changes.

This is a well written and
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,75 / 5

Ganadora del premio Locus y finalista del premio Hugo a mejor historia corta en 2018, Linda Nagata compone una pequeña historia sobre la capacidad del ser humano para seguir adelante, aunque todo este perdido, a la vez que habla del arte como elemento de grandeza y legado. Conoceremos a Susannah Li-Langford, una arquitecta de 80 años que debe decidir entre perpetuar la huella del hombre en Marte o salvar temporalmente a los supervivientes de la última colonia marciana que ha sido asolada
Cathy (cathepsut)
A very possible scenario for the end of our world. About loss and acceptance and the need to leave something behind, that proclaims „We were here“. And about hope and never giving up. About doing the right thing.

I liked it and I am tempted to check out her other work.

Hugo Awards 2018 Short Story Nominee
Che Adventure
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Would like to revisit this one again -- interesting concept gave it a 3.5 star rating. my review is included in a sff wrap-up video link
2018 Hugo Finalist for Best Short Story

“The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (, July 19, 2017)

“There’s a lesson for us in that. We assume we can see forward to tomorrow, but we can’t. We can’t ever really know what’s to come—and we can’t know what we might do, until we try.”

"And then there was Tory Eastman of Mars, who had left a dying colony and driven an impossible distance past doubt and despair, because she knew you have to do everything you ca
Peter Tillman
3.4 stars. Good story. I'm with Jen on this one,
-- but with a little extra for the hopeful ending.
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
4.5 It is the deepest feeling of humankind, that of never being forgotten. Everything has failed in this version of the end of the world, except morality.

Este tipo de historias me llegan al alma. Mas que un sci-fi, es un vistazo a nuestro mejor lado como seres humanos. La muestra de que hay que intentar siempre tomar la mejor decisión.

Cada vida cuenta.
Paul Amerigo
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Excellent short story with an ethical dilemma that's practically a Martian trolley problem. One of those short stories that will have you looking for ninja onion cutters around you before you finish it!
Earth's societies are in collapse from various eco- & bio- apocalypses. An artist works with remote robots & AIs on Mars to construct one last monument amid the failed attempts at colonization. And then a surprise forces her to make a choice....
Maggie Gordon
The Martian Obelisk is about the human condition and the choices we make when there aren't many choices left. It's about the importance of art, but also survival. It's also a bit derivative of better stories, but an enjoyable short read nevertheless.
“You have to do everything you can, until you can’t do anymore.”

Amazing story. Like legacy science fiction, addresses the issues of today with clear-eyed reality. Excellent storytelling. Sparse, just-right character development. We learn about Susannah and Nate through their actions.

“We assume we can see forward to tomorrow, but we can’t. We can’t ever really know what’s to come—and we can’t know what we might do, until we try.”

A welcome antidote to the nihilistic gloom or mindless fantasy that
Norman Cook
I enjoyed this story, but felt that it deserves to be longer. Nagata paints a sketchy picture of a ruined Earth, but I would have liked to see more of that described and explained. The moral dilemma didn't seem as powerful as it could have been if we had known more about the stranded family and their place in the Earth/Mars social/political environments. Nevertheless, this is a strong contender for the Hugo Award.
Interesting worldbuilding, but I wanted more story and less treacly morals, more complexity and fewer obvious choices.
Jan 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un ralato genial, y demasiado plausible. Se lee en nada.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
La ganadora del Locus a mejor relato corto de este año. Es buen relato, mantiene la tensión hasta el final aunque no me llena del todo completamente.
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
4ish stars.
Oleksandr Zholud
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This short story is short listed for Hugo Awards. For me, this is the best SF story in the selection and 2nd overall. I hope this author gains more popularity because her works are definitely worth it.
The story is set in near future Earth with a very pessimistic outlook at the future and the protagonist is distantly builds the memorial for humanity on Mars.
These Tor shorts are fantastic. What a thing to have available for free!

The Martian Obelisk is one of the shorter stories, but a big payoff considering the size. A surprisingly hopeful view of the gradual end of the world - an end of a thousand little deaths instead of one big meteor.

Available here:
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
I've been binging on and enjoying quite a few of the Tor Original Fiction short stories recently, and 'The Martian Obelisk' by Linda Nagata is the latest I've enjoyed.

Set on a devastated Earth, that has been hit with natural disasters, war and terrorism, and with civilisation still hanging on in "the lucky corners of the world", an architect and her benefactor are creating a huge obelisk on the surface of Mars, as a kind of lasting monument to humanity, as it withers back on its homeworld.

With t
For me it was a mixed bag: characters I felt familiar with quickly , but too much obvious world building for a short story. I liked the idea of the story, but didn't get warm with the idea of the obelisk project...
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it
The beginning of the story had some hackneyed sentences and imageries, like "There were reactor meltdowns, poisoned water supplies, engineered plagues, and a hundred other, smaller horrors." Other than that, the subject was special and could be used to write a novel or novella.
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short story but it did a good job of explaining a post-apocalyptic Earth and taking us on a journey of the protagonist’s view of humankind and evolution in a short time.
Hisham El-far
Jul 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great short story that seems so simple, but when you think about it - has some complex ideas.

This story is free to read on
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I'm a writer from Hawaii best known for my high-tech science fiction, including the Red trilogy, a series of near-future military thrillers. The first book in the trilogy, The Red: First Light, was a Nebula and John W. Campbell Memorial-award finalist, and named as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015. My newest novel is the very near-future thriller, The Last Good Man .

Though I don't review boo