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The Martian Race

(Adventures of Viktor & Julia #1)

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  841 ratings  ·  56 reviews
When the rocket launching the Mars Transit Vehicle into orbit explodes on the launch pad, killing four crewmen, the President announces the U.S. will redirect its energies to near-Earth projects. The manned mission to Mars is officially dead. That is until billionaire John Axelrod steps in to fund the project. Although the risks are high, several young astronauts sign on. ...more
Paperback, 444 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Aspect (first published 1999)
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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Dan Carey
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a candidate for Mars One's mission to colonize Mars in the next decade. ( Reading The Martian Race (especially the first third) was like reading the Mars One playbook. Benford drew heavily on the work of Dr. Robert Zubrin and the Mars Society (especially Zubrin's book The Case For Mars), so the science and engineering are very solid. That said, this book can be a little hard to get into, because it bounces back and forth between the main character's past and present. Wh ...more
Jul 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting science- anaerobic life on Mars! And the billionaire who invested in a rocket to Mars for a $30 billion prize was amusing (although he didn't mean to be). Otherwise, a bit stilted and naïve, not unexpected considering when it was written.
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
You've got to hand it to Benford. If you want hard sf, go to a pro. Unfortunately, even with what should be a lot of human tension and drama, and the appearance of an alien the like of which we haven't seen since James White's Sector General series, it's still about as dry as the Martian air.

The Martian Race plays the trick of moving forward from two points in the story at once, alternating between chapters about the prelaunch to Mars and the preparation for return. The drama is all about wheth
Jamie Collins
A sci-fi novel published in 1999, which “offers a portrayal of how humanity might explore Mars in the near future, at low cost and with foreseeable technology.” The writing is decent, if not elegant, and the story held my interest.

An international consortium has offered a $30 billion prize to the first team to complete a successful manned mission to Mars. When a disaster forces NASA out of the contest, an American entrepreneur steps in and essentially turns the mission into a hugely successful r
Sep 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's interesting how scifi dates but this is still a good read and ironically it may turn out to be prophetic as to how we reach Mars in the end with the announcement this year of a gameshow designed to fund a man mission to Mars!
This is classic Benford. You've got your one-dimensional bad guy who's motives are contrived to fit the plot. Then there's some hard science fiction with rockets and stuff. Plus, chauvinism in space!
Charles Daney
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Given that initial human exploration (and eventual colonization) of Mars is seemingly close to becoming a reality in two decades, possibly less, there's considerable interest in vicariously experiencing what this might be like. After all, the prospects of civilization's survival on Earth itself seem bleaker with every passing year. So unsurprisingly, readers of science fiction have been able to get realistic previews of what Martian exploration and colonization could look like, from prominent wr ...more
Paul Weiss
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fiction
Perhaps not fiction for too much longer ... we can but hope!

Congress just couldn't stomach NASA's estimated $450 billion price tag to send a manned mission to Mars. So the USA and a group of other interested countries agreed on a different approach - a $30 billion prize to the first people that went to Mars and returned with a completed set of specified scientific explorations including geologic mapping, seismic testing, studies of atmospheric phenomena, core samples and, of course, searches for
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. There's something of a hook at the beginning, but otherwise the first third or so seems to really just be setting the stage for the rest. Most of the action occurs fairly spaced out until near the end, but despite that, the character-driven writing made it an engaging read an hard to put down.

I was surprised when I finished to learn it was released twenty years ago; Benford did a fine job writing for the future (most of the book takes place last year, in 2018), and it
Steve Bender
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Good hard SF story about the first expedition to Mars. US gives up and so an international prize is set up to encourage a scientific expedition to Mars and back. Good story as well as science. Highly recommended.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
Well written hard sci-fi. Just like I enjoy.
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great book by my friend Greg Benford. I really like his treatment of life on Mars with a small landing party and the struggles they go through. I recommend this book whole-heartedly!
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Blueprint for an actual Mars mission in the guise of a novel? A compelling (and convincing read). Terrific book!
Atif Khan
This is good book
AJ Nelson
I like hard SF but this was just dry. Might be OK for a die-hard Benford fan or if you just can't get enough on mars colonization.
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
ABR's original The Martian Race audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Nicholas Sansbury Smith continues his exciting series with this second book, Extinction Edge. At the close of Extinction Horizon, we are told there is a cure or rather that Dr. Lovato has created a “larger monster.” We expect things to go much better on Plum Island and the rebuilding of civilization can begin. Uh, no!

Lovato sets the “larger monster” loose in the U.S. killing off most of the varian
Ken Doggett
This is a story of a future space race, a race to Mars, and the winner who returns with the proper amount of scientific research and a payload of areological, biological, and other samples retrieved from the Martian surface wins the payoff of $30 billion offered by combined funding from a few advanced industrial nations. A wheeler-dealer by the name of John Axelrod puts together the first team to lift off and make its way to Mars. A second team, called "Airbus," apparently with Chinese backing, ...more
Karen Johnson
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Martian Race was written by Gregory Benford and narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir. The plot is a race to Mars by two teams of astronauts, with prize money going to the team returning first, and bringing back the best scientific findings. This is not your typical NASA rocket mission. A billionaire, who flings money left and right to buy whatever is needed for the mission, is the boss to one team of four astronauts.

The narrator is quite good at capturing both male and female voices, including the
Aug 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
Gregory Benford, practicing physics professor at the Univesity of California, Irvine, has done is again. "The Martian Race" deals with one potential scenario for the first expedition to Mars.

Actually it deals with the first two missions, as the political collapse of NASA opens the way for two independantly funded private ventures to mount missions to be the first to send manned expeditions to Mars and return. The winner claiming billions of dollars in prizemoney.

As in most of the other novels Be
I've discovered that I like hard sci-fi somewhat belatedly, and perhaps unexpectedly, given that I haven't studied sciences since I was 15. Given the similarity of deep space exploration narratives to post-apocalyptic ones, though, maybe it's not so odd. This book is an excellent example of that. The stakes are high, life is hard, options are few, etc. The criticisms made by others definitely have merit: the characters aren't particularly developed (although I came to care a lot for Julia) and t ...more
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Hard core science Fiction fans
Recommended to Peggy by: Noone
Benford paints a realistic account of what it might be like on Mars. There is a crew of astronauts living on Mars and exploring it-they have been at it for two years. It is almost time for them to return home, but there is a problem with their ship which no only lacks needed fuel but also has other mechanical problems. Also, one of the astronauts discovers a life form in an area of Mars called the vent. Soon, they are sent aid, but only one can return to Earth on the new ship. Who stays and who ...more
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, sf-and-fantasy
While Gregory Benford writes in the 'Acknowledgements' that he hopes to "sound a note of realism in the sub-genre of exploration novels", The Martian Race contains a fair amount of conjecture and sheer whimsy, particularly towards the end, when 'life' is discovered on the Red Planet.

Unfortunately, this causes the plot to slow to a crawl, as Benford runs through what feels like a xeno-biological primer. Up to this point, though, The Martian Race is a taut and quite believable account of how priva
Apr 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
So, interestingly, this was actually first published back in 1998/1999 ! Which makes it even more interesting to me, because it was recommended to me when I was chatting to a colleague about the whole Mars One thing, which currently fascinates me. Not enough to offer myself up on the one-way trip, but enough to be keeping a semi-regular eye on it and consider purchasing one of the T-Shirts while we were in America (I didn't).

So, let's consider that when this was written, 2015 and 2018 (the prima
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: mars, science-fiction
This is a worthy book in the traditional international interplanetary voyage genre, but I just couldn't persist with it (audiobook in my case). The set-up for a 2015 privatized, low-budget manned Mars mission was clever (down to the assumption that we'd have a President Feinstein by now), and nothing felt outdated and wrong even with fifteen more years of Mars exploration under our belts. The Viktor & Julia couple and the more humanized astronaut corps was good stuff. It just moved too slowly an ...more
Nov 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: scifi
I just read whatever this guy writes and am never disappointed, this book no exception.

Reread 2020, This was like a completely new read, I did not remember anything in the book. And the rating suffers. Taking it down 2 notches to a 3 Star decent but not outstanding book. The first 300 pages were pretty blah, the "race" (double meaning) only gets interesting later and never really gets the attention it deserved. I wanted to read it because I have the sequel unread and now I'm not sure Viktor and
Mar 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is near-future, hard (no "warp drive", ESP, or even nanotech) SF. Benford doesn't really milk the tension of the race to return from Mars, which is probably a good thing. Instead he mixes that drama with character development, the story of exploring Mars, and trying to survive on Mars. All in all, it's a fairly well-paced book. It never really elevates itself to a gripping, "just one more chapter before I go to bed" level. But it never really drags either, so I never really found myself bor ...more
Feb 07, 2013 rated it really liked it

 In the early 21st century, after NASA's Mars program has been grounded because of a Challenger-like catastrophe, a $30 billion prize is announced to be awarded to the first private organization that can land a spaceship on Mars, do serious science and return in one piece. Enter John Axelrod, eccentric billionaire and space aficionado. His Consortium launches a bare-bones Mars expedition that is closely followed by a Chinese-European attempt, and the race for Mars is on. 

Apr 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
This was an enjoyable book though Mr. Benford's style takes a little getting used to. It's not bad but I found his stilting use of short sentences and fragments a little staccato and jarring. The story is good, but not necessarily excellent, though it did remind me somewhat of 2010 (the movie, never read the novel) -- excitment without anything really happening (until the end). As a science buff I quite enjoyed the novel and I definitely agree with the motto, Mars in Our Time.
Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this near-future science fiction on the first Mars mission. Liked it much better than Eater which I read immediately before this: here, the science and the interpersonal and the societal all seemed to come together in a very satisfying way.

It didn't displace Timescape as my favorite science fiction novel, but it's certainly high up on the list.
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's slightly dated (and name drops Craig Venter). but overall I really liked this account of a first mission to mars. It is very believable, especially if you cast Axelrod as Richard Branson. The last quarter of the book felt rushed to me. I wanted more science! Then again, this is almost certainly how the crew felt, so that could also have been intentional on Benford's part. Recommended.
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Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine.

As a science fiction author, Benford is best known for the Galactic Center Saga novels, beginning with In the Ocean of Night (1977). This series postulates a galaxy in which sentient organic life is in constant warfare wit

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