Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Book Review: Moving Mars

I want to first apologize (boy no matter what you do that word never looks spelled properly) to Greg Bear. It used to be that I'd always lump his work in with some of the many sci-fi hacks out there. I don't know why really. Maybe it was his titles or the descriptions of the books or his positioning on the shelf. In just the last year or two have I started looking at his books more seriously. He gets mentioned by some big names, he won some awards, and he remains on the shelves when other hack authors vanish.
I made the same mistake with Arthur C. Clarke. "2001: A Space Odyssey" is a great but terribly dull film. I blamed Clarke instead of Kubrick and I shouldn't have. Read the book and the movie makes a lot more sense. Better yet, convince someone to remake it before Clarke dies.

Ok, now down to business. I bought this book because the author was signing books at Reiters the other night. I liked this guy from page one. Then I liked him a bit less. By the end of the book I was very happy with him.
The story is told in six parts by a woman telling her memoirs. It starts when the Martian government starts throwing kids out of college and firing professors who either disagree with the government or the government thinks disgrees. It's not much of a spoiler to say that government falls. But it gets the woman interested in politics. She interns with a distant uncle and travels with him to Earth where I'm not going to tell you what happens but we start to see hints of a threat and wonder what Earth's real goals are.
She helps set up a more united government and becomes vice-president of Mars until elections can be held. Then her ex-boyfriend informs the government of the discovery of some technology that will throw the whole political framework of the solar system into disarray.

This was one of a list of Greg Bear's books that came highly recommended. Now I'm ...

Oooh! Almost forgot. Some years ago my friends and I were discussing ion drives and if the exhaust would be a problem for other space ships that pass that way later. See, they way ion drives work is that a nuclear reactor causes hydrogen atoms to break apart and then the electrons and nucleii are fired out the back. The free floating fragments are highly reactive and will latch onto whatever they can get. If you drive through a cloud they'll react with your ship and at best ionize the hull, at worst change what a tiny bit of the hull is made of. One isn't bad, but a whole cloud would be bad.
What we didn't take into consideration was the solar winds. That's what we call all the material being blown off the surface of the sun all the time. Bear's figures say that in normal weather it would take a week for the wind to blow away the trail on the Earth to Mars run. The further from the sun you go the longer it takes.

Yes, ion drives are real. NASA has tested them on two deep space probes. Right now they're the fastest drives we have functioning. They take awhile to get going, but they can really move once they get going.

Yes, I recommend the book.
When I reviewed the book Hominids I failed to mention that the author talks about my theory that Cain and Abel were representations of Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals.
I'm glad I posted before reading the book or even I'd wonder if I ripped him off.

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